FTDI stops disabling devices with fake chips

FTDI logo and chipScottish electronics firm FTDI has backed down from a controversial scheme to use a Windows software update to 'brick' devices with counterfeit chips.

The Glasgow-based company - which manufactures a USB-to-serial bridge chipset (FT232) used in many electronic devices - included a new driver in a Windows software update that deactivated the chip by setting its ID code to zero if it was found to be fake.

The move - initially put down as a driver error - sparked a backlash from hardware designers and developers and amateur hobbyists on Twitter who accused the company of being heavy-handed and "maliciously attacking end users" when it should have simply flashed up a warning that the device contained a counterfeit chip.


Faced with the furore, the company withdrew the driver update so that on-the-fly updating cannot occur, indicating a new driver would be released sometime this week.

While FTDI initially engaged with the spirited debate about the affair, which strikes at the heart of issues surrounding rampant counterfeiting in the semiconductor industry, it eventually deleted all its tweets and simply referred enquiries to a statement.

FTDI chief executive Fred Dart stops short of apologising for the company's action in the blog post, saying "though our intentions were honourable, we acknowledge that our recent driver update has caused concern amongst our genuine customer base."

The new driver "will still uphold our stance against devices that are not genuine, but do so in a non-invasive way that means that there is no risk of end user's hardware being directly affected," he adds.

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