FBI raids its own offices in fake computer hardware sting

By | May 12, 2008

FBI raids its own offices in fake computer hardware sting

AN investigation into the sale of counterfeit Chinese computer components to the US Government recovered about 3500 bogus devices worth up to $US3.5 million ($3.7 million), the FBI has said.

The criminal probe, code-named Operation Cisco Raider, came amid concerns that counterfeit network components could enable hackers to access secure government databases, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.

The operation involved 15 investigations at nine FBI field offices and the execution of 39 search warrants, the bureau said.

One official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the components discovered were not believed to have made government computer systems more vulnerable.

Components included pirated versions of Cisco Systems routers as well as switches, interface converters and wide area network interface cards.

Some counterfeit products also went to defence contractors and other private-sector buyers. There was no word of arrests. One official said the probe had been concluded.

The existence of the operation came to light after an FBI slide presentation on the operation’s findings appeared on intelligence and conspiracy theory website Above Top Secret. The FBI made the presentation on January 11 to another government agency.

“This unclassified briefing was never intended for broad distribution or posting to the internet,” said James Finch, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division.

FBI slides posted to the website showed cases in Massachusetts, Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and California.

The presentation depicted counterfeit components moving from companies inside China to the US Government through distributors in the US, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain. Other components were purchased through the internet auctioneer eBay or with government credit cards from non-government vendors.

Some counterfeit routers sold for as little as $US234 each, compared with a retail price of $US1375 for the genuine article, according to the presentation. In one case, a subcontractor shipped counterfeit components to the US Navy from a supplier in China.

ABC News reported that authorities around the world, including in the US, Canada and China, have made more than 400 seizures with an estimated value of $US76 million. In one instance, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police seized 1600 counterfeit Cisco computer parts. -news.au

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