Do you really know what’s inside the electronic devices you use? Neither the U.S. military nor an increasing number of large corporations knows what’s in theirs. Between 2005 and 2008, the number of companies reporting incidents involving counterfeit chips—including recycled parts passed off as new, those that fail testing and are sold anyway, and some that are phony from the beginning and were never intended to work at all—more than doubled. Some of these supply-chain catastrophes have found their way into aircraft such as military jets and helicopters—and into an untold number of commercial systems that don’t face the level of scrutiny the military brings to bear.
The global trade in recycled electronics parts is enormous and growing rapidly, driven by a confluence of cost pressures, increasingly complex supply chains, and the huge growth in the amount of electronic waste sent for disposal around the world. Recycled parts, relabeled and sold as new, threaten not only military systems but also commercial transportation systems, medical devices and systems, and the computers and networks that run today’s financial markets and communications systems.