You could view it as a form of flattery when someone copies your design. But considering that counterfeit electronics cost affected industries billions of dollars annually, design counterfeiting is really no laughing matter. Missile guidance systems, aircraft, servers, storage hardware, and routers are just a few examples of electronics systems where counterfeit parts have been found.
On All About Circuits, Robin Mitchell wrote about “How to Spot Counterfeit Electronic Components,” detailing an experience encountering counterfeit parts while designing an electronic toggle system for a Z80 computer. Mitchell writes, “Counterfeit parts are dangerous not because they don’t work outright, but because they nearly work. The problem may not be evident until it has been built and operated for some time. Counterfeit parts are also unreliable and can fail at any point.”
Indeed, there are studies that have shown that gray market goods wash away about eight percent of the total market revenue for electronic components. Design engineers, however, can play a big role in combating design counterfeiting.
Designing in security early on makes a big difference. This way, the design has an underlying foundation that is intended to ward off hackers and can also be more easily updated as new threats emerge. Implementing solutions such as electronic product labeling systems and serialization technology that provide unique identifiers to each part can also be helpful.
Also critical is authentication, whether via symmetric or asymmetric keys. Symmetric keys provide security with less algorithm complexity and computation time, while asymmetric keys feature more algorithm complexity and longer computation time. Each has its pluses and minuses, depending on what you need for your design. Learn how to choose the right authentication method for your design in“Want to Avoid Counterfeiting?”