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DoD Using Plant DNA To Combat Counterfeit Parts 39

Posted by Soulskill
from the mother-nature-has-all-the-answers dept.
smitty777 writes "Highlighting another unique way to use cutting edge DNA technology, the U.S. Department of Defense has a new weapon in its efforts to combat counterfeit parts: plant DNA. This article at Wired discusses how plant DNA can be used to make an almost unique code (1 in 1 trillion) for parts identification. A graphic shows some of the ways this could be done: bolts with DNA-marked coating, invisible bar codes, and fluorescing inks are some of the possible applications. In a similar but unrelated project, World Micro has a different solution to detect counterfeit items in the military that have been 'blacktopped,' where items have been re-surfaced to allow remarking."
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DoD Using Plant DNA To Combat Counterfeit Parts

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  • Re:Um... (Score:5, Informative)

    by mr1911 (1942298) on Friday January 20, 2012 @07:12PM (#38768970)

    If a sample could be taken could the DNA not be recreated?

    The main idea behind counterfeit parts is taking parts that are inferior, salvaged, or even a part in the same package but different functionality and passing it off as a more expensive part. If the cost of the counterfeit approaches the cost of the real part, there is no incentive. There are counterfeit parts targeted at specific industries or military parts that the DNA concept may not slow down.

    Military contracting is THE big business with a lot of profit incentive to counterfeiters, no matter how expensive this process might be now I'm pretty sure this is not going to be all that effective in the long run.

    Most of the counterfeit stories you hear about are where fake parts wound up in military applications rather than counterfeits specifically targeting the military. There is a high incident in aviation too. Why? Because these applications are low volume yet very long lived, and manufacturers move to new revisions or even quit producing the components for systems still in use. Contractors buy parts from brokers and other places where the pedigree of a part cannot be ascertained.

    A better to battle counterfeiting might be to make military spec equipment a lot less profitable... *cough*

    Military contracts are lucrative, but the profit margins are probably not what you think they are. Most of the reason the equipment costs more is due to the specifications it must meet coupled with the relatively low volumes the military consumes.

  • Re:Um... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hatta (162192) on Friday January 20, 2012 @07:25PM (#38769158) Journal

    If a sample could be taken could the DNA not be recreated?

    Yes, absolutely. Creating short stretches of DNA with known sequences is well established technology. All you need to get a 1 in a trillion DNA sequence is 20 base pairs (4^20 > 1 trillion). Oligonucleotides of that length can be custom designed and purchased for a few bucks.

  • Re:Um... (Score:5, Informative)

    by TopSpin (753) on Friday January 20, 2012 @09:02PM (#38770404) Journal

    The parent is largely correct. Counterfeit parts get into the DOD supply chain by way of the suppliers of suppliers (of suppliers...,) some of whom obtain and resell parts that have been salvaged in China and other hell-holes, or repackaged from lower cost/capability parts elsewhere. There are Chinese villages, such as those in Guiyu [wikipedia.org], that do nothing but dismantle and salvage electronics in open air cesspools. Some fraction of these gets refaced and imported, duty free, into the US as counterfeit.

    When the DOD investigates suppliers to determine the origin of counterfeit components they typically uncover a chain of 4-5 or more suppliers leading back to China. The Senate Armed Services committee held a hearing on this about 10 weeks ago. Video here. [c-spanvideo.org]

    Almost no one is ever prosecuted for anything. Those few importers that are caught will fold up and re-appear under new names. The big contractors that ultimately source and install counterfeit parts pull whatever strings they must to minimize consequences to their business. They'll typically negotiate some replacement schedule and pay a nominal fine. Sometimes they even get to bill the US for the cost of placing counterfeits they installed.

No hardware designer should be allowed to produce any piece of hardware until three software guys have signed off for it. -- Andy Tanenbaum

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