Threats to Tech in the Supply Chain

By January 9, 2019Security
Close up of a circuit board

Imagine ordering a product from your favorite online retailer. The retailer informs the manufacturer who then puts your purchase in a box and ships it to your house. Right? Well, no. While the idea of three parties; you, the retailer, and the manufacturer is an attractive idea, online purchases rarely follow that simplified model.

An array of companies supply manufacturers their parts. Tracking will produce a list of locations through which a product passes on its way to a warehouse. The warehouse might exist in the country of the manufacturer, the country where you live, or some other. In truth, your product and its many parts may have passed through a dizzying number of locations. That business model, however, has created threats to tech via the supply chain.

Malicious Hardware Inserted Along the Tech Supply Chain

What dangers do unregulated and unmonitored supply lines present? To the tech industry, the risks run high. When a device receives parts from multiple manufacturers, it opens possibilities for tampering and the insertion of malicious hardware. Some consider the dangers of spyware inserted into our technology as a very real threat. An article in Bloomberg Businessweek told the tale of Amazon.com discovering an unfamiliar microchip hidden inside of servers it relied upon. The microchip did not belong there and did not appear in the original design of the computer boards. Who else used the circuitry that housed the tiny chip? The Bloomberg report named the Department of Defense, the CIA, and the U.S. Navy!

False Merchandise on the Tech Supply Chain

While the security of information occupies a place near and dear to all of our hearts, so does personal safety. The uncontrolled use of supply chains also inserts shoddy manufacturing into the mix. Apple has filed a lawsuit regarding knock-off products that consumers can find on Amazon, which ads list as genuine Apple parts. The problem may seem minor, but Apple alleges to have discovered fake merchandise comprises 90% of the so-called authentic chargers, adapters, and other Apple products on Amazon.com. Worse still, by far, the construction of the chargers has proven faulty to the point of causing battery fires.

China Produces Most of our Digital Products

The overall problems of both poor manufacturing and security arise from unmonitored and unregulated supply chains. Who makes the parts that go into our electronics? Who supplies the parts that factories put together to create our products? The technological devices that arrive in the United States come primarily from China. Apparently, China has put efforts into creating higher quality products to distance itself from any poor reputation that “Made in China” has gained. However, according to Quality Digest, those changes aim mostly at increasing production quality via automation. Their increased efforts do not include human inspection of quality. What of consumer safety from data theft? On that, China has had much less to say.

Controlling Threats to Tech in the Supply Chain

Unreliable supply chains have created an atmosphere of distrust. Self-protection is mostly in the hands of the consumer. Installing security features that monitor and control the flow of information from your devices remains one of the best security features available. With digital protections in place on your end, you stand a much higher chance of controlling your safety.


Photo by Alexandre Debiève on Unsplash