The world’s semiconductor chip shortage isn’t going away any time soon but, while it may be kicking several industries (beyond just chip manufacturers) in the nards, there’s another consequence of the shortage now rearing its ugly little head: counterfeit hardware.
Which, if you consider the cigarette black market in South Africa during our hard lockdown in 2020, probably shouldn’t be that surprising. If there’s a product in demand, someone’s going to rebadge something inferior and try and pass it off as the real deal. Because money.
No shortage of chip shortage chancers
The biggest issue for industries is getting hold of approved suppliers, a process that can take weeks or even months. When it comes down to getting enough parts in to continue working or completely shutting down, companies may be willing to take a change, explains Diganta Das, a researcher at the Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering (CALCE).
Steve Calabria, the founder of the Independent Distributors of Electronics Association (IDEA), speaking to ZDNet, says that he’s already seen a worrying trend in this direction. The chip shortage is forcing some companies to take shortcuts they normally wouldn’t, which leaves holes for unscrupulous companies to try and make a quick (and substantial) buck.
“We’re seeing companies that have never been rated by any other company in the industry showing significant quantities of parts that are in shortage. But what sounds too good to be true is too good to be true”, Calabria said.
You might think that a counterfeit chip is just fine if you can still buy the devices you’re keep on but those devices do tend to stop functioning for no reason — because sub-standard hardware. It’s possible that devices and motor vehicles built using counterfeit parts will function fine but there’s no guarantee and, likely, no recourse if something goes horribly wrong.
But the chip shortage is causing some rather interesting behaviour from companies. Digital Trends points out that the global shortage is so bad that component and computer maker MSI is resurrecting its GT 730 GPU, a 2014-era graphics care that was outmatched in 2015. But it’s functional. If companies are this desperate for working hardware, they’re less likely to ask inconvenient questions about where those bits originated and just take companies at their word.