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Facing the spectre of counterfeit kit

15/04/21

Industry Voice

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There’s too much at stake for the public sector to risk buying counterfeit, writes Spencer Cleary, investigator in brand protection, Cisco  

Whether networking equipment is installed at a hospital, school or a government agency, organisations in the public sector depend on their networks for critical needs and operations, including access to databases with sensitive information and, increasingly, voice and video communications.

'counterfeit' in bold

Given the central role these networks play, security risks, revenue and productivity losses associated with even brief network failures can be very significant. It is therefore paramount that organisations are informed about counterfeiting and other potential risks intrinsic in purchasing network equipment from sources other than the manufacturer’s authorised channel.

Counterfeit products can be ‘pure counterfeits’ – manufactured from scratch by entities other than the original manufacturer and without consent with a purpose to imitate a genuine product - or ‘counterfeit upgrades’, in which the counterfeiter gets hold of a genuine product and modifies it without the manufacturer’s consent to present it as a higher grade product. A counterfeit upgrade can be described as selling a Mini converted to look like a Rolls Royce but ultimately, it’s still a Mini.

Counterfeiting affects most industries, and in networking is seen in a broad range of network equipment including routers, switches and wireless solutions like access points. Counterfeit products may not perform in accordance with technical specifications and can cause network failures as well as introduce security vulnerabilities, including cyber security risks.

Further risks

In addition to counterfeiting, public sector organisations can also be exposed to other potential risks when procuring networking equipment from unauthorised channels. Products purchased outside the manufacturer’s authorised channels may not carry a valid software licence, do not benefit from manufacturer’s warranties and are ineligible for a manufacturer’s support services unless they successfully pass an inspection and any applicable relicensing fees are paid.

The public sector’s exposure to counterfeiting and other potential risks is increasing as the squeeze on finances prompts many organisations to go for the least expensive options for networking equipment, often going to unauthorised resellers and not asking about the origins of the products.

Public sector customers may not be aware that the products they procured may be counterfeit and/or lack the benefits that genuine and authorised products have until there is a disruption in the network and the customers engage the manufacturer. The costs of solving the issue after the equipment has been integrated into the customer’s network can outweigh the supposed initial advantage of purchasing at a cheaper price.

Protection

Cisco Brand Protection recommends organisations purchase networking equipment and associated services from authorised channel partners. Cisco has a large network of authorised partners who are qualified and experienced in providing pre-sales support, installing and maintaining network products. Customers can verify whether a company is a Cisco authorised partner at Cisco Partner Locator website: https://locatr.cloudapps.cisco.com/WWChannels/LOCATR/openBasicSearch.do .

There are additional resources available to assess whether products are genuine. In particular, please visit:

Finally, Cisco Brand Protection encourages organisations to raise any questions they may have directly with the team at [email protected]

 

Image from iStock, Steve Allen Photo

 

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