Furore over US anti-counterfeiting DNA marking strategy


SEMICONDUCTOR manufacturers are up in arms over a new anti-counterfeiting requirement from the US Defense Logistics Agency.

On 15 November 2012, the US DLA’s DNA-marking requirement came into effect, requiring for all chips sold to the US Department of Defense to be marked with contractor-unique, DNA-based signatures.

Earlier this year, Electronics News reported on concerns from the US regarding counterfeit electronic components making their way into critical military equipment. The US DLA’s initiative is a direct response to these concerns.

However, semiconductor manufacturers represented by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) claim the DNA-based marketing system is costly, cannot be used adequately to authenticate legacy semiconductors, has not been properly tested, and may not even help to combat counterfeits entering the defense supply chain.

The fact that only one supplier, Applied DNA Sciences, is authorised to provide the DNA marking material, has also raised issues regarding market competition, and the risk of the program being entirely bypassed by counterfeiters mimicking the DNA material itself.

In fact, industry players are concerned that a swing in focus towards a defective DNA-marking system would compromise existing counterfeit screening capabilities.

Additionally, there are doubts over the permanency and of DNA markings, if they are affected by fungi, environment, outgassing and electrical currents.

The fear, uncertainty and doubt over the DNA mandate is discouraging semiconductor suppliers from bidding on defense contracts, which may lead to parts shortage.

In response to the issue, the JEDEC Solid State Technology Association has formed the JEDEC JC-13 Committee, which is a task group looking into the concerns over the DNA marking program. They have given the DLA a list of questions about the program, particularly over supplier liability, legacy semiconductor marking, and other issues.