The FBI is worried about counterfeit Cisco routers. They should be. After all, they, along with the United States Navy, Marines and Air Force as well as the FAA have all bought some of the fake routers.
In late February the FBI broke up a counterfeit distribution network, seizing an estimated US$3.5 million worth of components manufactured in China. This two-year FBI effort, called Operation Cisco Raider, involved 15 investigations run out of nine FBI field offices.
According to the FBI presentation, the fake Cisco routers, switches and cards were sold to the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps., the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, and even the FBI itself.
One slide refers to the problem as a "critical infrastructure threat."
The U.S. Department of Defense is taking the issue seriously. Since 2007, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has funded a program called Trust in IC, which does research in this area.
Last month, researcher Samuel King demonstrated how it was possible to alter a computer chip to give attackers virtually undetectable back-door access to a computer system.
King, an assistant professor in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's computer science department, has argued that by tampering with equipment, spies could open up a back door to sensitive military systems.
In an interview on Friday, he said the slides show that this is clearly something that has the FBI worried.
The Department of Defense is concerned, too. In 2005 its Science Board cited concerns over just such an attack in a report.
This is a very dangerous threat, not just to the US military but also to corporations and just about any sensitive information. As the world becomes increasingly computerized, it is becoming more difficult to keep real secrets as it is.