DNA coding requirement meets opposition from chipmakers

Silicon chipA requirement by the US Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for silicon chips to be labelled with DNA markers has been slammed by some manufacturers.

The mandate became effective on November 15 and was implemented in response to reports of counterfeit chips finding their way into military hardware, raising the risk of critical equipment failure.

The Semiconductor Industry Association - which represents many of the chip manufacturers serving US government departments - contends that the DNA markers are expensive, largely untested and may not guarantee the authenticity of components.

It also claims that some of its members are not bidding for federal contracts because of the requirement, according to a letter sent earlier this month in response to the DLA proposals.

At present the only supplier of the DNA markers required by the DLA is Applied DNA Sciences, which has developed a botanical DNA system that can be used to label and authenticate items.

At the time the DLA's plans were disclosed, the company noted that suppliers who provide DLA electronic microcircuits must provide items marked with a unique authentication DNA marker, which should be unique to the supplier or the manufacturer of the part.

"While we appreciate the efforts DLA has made to examine a single company’s technology, we believe that proceeding as proposed will actually do more harm than good," said the SIA.

"We are more convinced than ever that the DNA marking technology has a very limited
application and could create a false sense of security," it added, whilst arguing that the DLA should collaborate with experts from the industry "to determine the best route to
integrate technology into their products."

The agency should also take advantage an SIA-led anti-counterfeiting R&D project in Europe which is examining multiple anti-counterfeiting technologies and trying to develop industry-wide standards.

The SIA has reported in the past that counterfeit chips have ended up in a wide range of products, including automotive brake systems, medical devices such as defibrillators and military equipment such as missiles, navigation systems and jets.

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