China syndromeOperation targeting counterfeit network hardware from China yield convictions, seizures

Published 12 May 2010

Departments of Justice and DHS announce 30 convictions, more than $143 million in seizures from initiative targeting traffickers in counterfeit network hardware made in China; this counterfeit network hardware is a technological sleeper cell: the Chinese have manufactured counterfeit Cisco routers and switches and offered them at exceedingly low prices; U.S. vendors upgrading or replacing U.S. government IT systems used these counterfeit devices — and the FBI and other government agencies are now worried that the gear offers the Chinese undetectable back-doors into highly secure government and military computer system

In April an unclassified FBI PowerPoint presentation about the worrisome proliferation of counterfeit Cisco networking gear throughout the U.S. government’s critical infrastructure popped up on the Internet on If you want to see the PPT, ATS is still hosting the slides (JPGS of them) (we have been covering this story for two years now; see, for example, “Counterfeit chips may hobble advanced weapons,” 30 October 2009 HSNW ; “China may have back door into U.S. military computer networks,” 23 April 2008 HSNW ; and “FBI probes counterfeit Chinese network gear,” 12 May 2008 HSNW). The Chinese origin of the counterfeit routers and switches had the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community extremely concerned about the possibility the Chinese government or Chinese hackers — or both — have backdoors into highly secure U.S. government and military computer networks.

On Friday the FBI made an announcement about its Cyber Division’s investigation, dubbed Operation Cisco Raider, into the fake network gear. The criminal investigation has led to the seizure of approximately 3,500 counterfeit network components with an estimated retail value of over $3.5 million.

The New York Times offers what must be regarded as good news: “A Cisco spokesman said that the company had investigated the counterfeit gear seized by law enforcement agencies and had not found any secret back door.”

Operation Network Raider

Operation Network Raider, a U.S. and international enforcement initiative targeting the illegal distribution of counterfeit network hardware manufactured in China, has resulted in 30 felony convictions and more than 700 seizures of counterfeit Cisco network hardware and labels with an estimated retail value of more than $143 million.


The results of the operation were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, Assistant Director Gordon Snow of the FBI’s Cyber Division, Assistant Secretary John Morton of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Commissioner Alan Bersin of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In addition to the convictions and seizures, according to the CBP there has been a 75 percent decrease in seizures of counterfeit network hardware at U.S. borders from 2008 to 2009. In addition, nine individuals are facing trial and another eight defendants are awaiting sentencing.

This operation is a joint initiative by the FBI, ICE, and CBP working with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices around the country, the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and the National Intellectual