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GCN : December 2012
34 GCN DECEMBER 2012 • GCN.COM IT'S A SAFE BET that one factor that makes the United States so powerful in the world at every level is its technology. It s not only the raw tech that matters, but what it s used for. NASA s Iron Man Initiative, for example, is helping injured people to walk again. The Energy Department s Titan supercomputer will help to model and unravel the secrets of the universe. And of course the nation s military technol- ogy is the envy of the world. But it s also true that reli- ance on technology creates risk. Henry David Thoreau was not far o when he said that men had become the tools of their tools. When a device fails to work properly, it can really ruin our day. When a whole swath of devices fails at the same time, it can be doomsday. One reason this technol- ogy dependence is a potential problem is that fake technol- ogy gear is infiltrating the federal government at an alarming rate. Over 10,000 businesses sold counterfeit tech to the U.S. government in 2011, according a CNN report. Last year, GCN reported that fake parts were being found inside government technology, including more than 800 non-functional memory chips that had been installed inside vari- ous missile defense systems. From fighter jets to laptops to communications gear, the problem of counterfeit technology is huge because, unlike a knocko handbag, the fake tech won t function when it s needed most. There is also the possibility that the people behind the fake gear could be after more than just a quick buck. The Justice Department several years ago confiscated more than 400 counterfeit Cisco routers be- fore they could be installed in government o ces. That gear could have been programmed to open up backdoors for o - shore hackers to monitor U.S. communications. Both fake gear and devices that have been deliberately programmed with nefarious intent are a serious threat to a nation that relies so heavily on emerging technology to give it an edge. NASA is taking the lead in programs to prevent fraud with the creation of a ratings system that scores suppliers based on trustwor- thiness, so its buyers can pick the most reliable source. Even then, every part NASA buys is inspected. Agencies could also require that technology be rated with an Evaluation Assurance Level of at least 2. Anything that is certified to EAL 2 has to have each component checked and certified prior to assembly. Investigations have found that, in some cases, products are "clean" when they leave a manufacturer but can be com- promised somewhere along the supply chain. One product, the ServSwitch Secure KVM from Black Box, goes a step further to EAL 4. At that level, the en- tire supply chain is controlled, to the point that assembled switches are kept in cages until they are ready to be shipped. EAL4isalottoaskofa company, but if it is supply- ing gear to the government, it might be time agencies begin to insist on it. Those looking to make a quick buck with coun- terfeit gear won t stop if there is still money to be made, and hackers won t quit either. • FAKE TECH: WHAT CAN AGENCIES DO TO PROTECT THEMSELVES? BY JOHN BREEDEN II EMERGING TECH FAKE TECH PRODUCTS A THREAT TO GOVERNMENT PURCHASING Despite laws designed to crack down on counterfeiters, suppliers labeled by the U.S. government as "high risk" are increasing their sales to federal agencies. Their presence in the government supply chain grew 63 percent over the past decade, according to a new study by supply chain management consul- tancy IHS and reported by CNN Money. The number of fake tech products in the market quadrupled from 2009 to 2011, ac- cording to IHS --- and they're sneaking into some high-profile places. In 2011, 9,539 banned businesses were found to have sold technology to the govern- ment. Roughly 10 percent of those sales involved counterfeit parts or equipment. In September 2010, the Missile Defense Agency discovered that the memory in a high-altitude missile's mission computer was counterfeit. Fixing the problem cost $2.7 mil- lion. A missile launch most likely would have failed, the agency said. Two years earlier, the FBI seized $76 million of counterfeit Cisco routers that the Bureau said could have provided Chinese hackers a backdoor into U.S. government networks. Although there are rules and systems in place to protect the government's supply chain -- including a General Services Admin- istration database of about 90,000 risky sup- pliers that government agencies are required to check against when ordering parts -- the trick is getting people to use those resources, IHS said. "Policies and procedures just aren't being followed," Rory King, IHS supply chain director told CNN, "It's actually pretty simple to do -- it's a matter of needing better education, awareness and training." --- John Breeden II