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By GCN Staff

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Fake Cisco gear suggests procurement failure

Could both the General Services Administration and Cisco be partly for blame for the current scandal over the Defense Department buying fake IT gear?

According to a set of Federal Bureau of Investigation presentation slides now floating around the Internet, part of the reason the bogus equipment ended up in military systems was that the General Services Administration's procurement language allows for two or three levels of subcontractors to be brought in by the winner bidder.

This subcontracting can lead to the bidder purchasing hardware from non-Original Equipment Manufacturers, presumably to save money. The agencies would be none-the-wiser.

Cisco was evidently worth at least a few slides of blame as well, insofar that the company does not sell directly into the government. Rather it leaves the GSA sales to resellers, which can muddy the waters upstream as well. Even the company's Gold/Silver partners sold fake equipment, apparently.

For those who missed the news stories, the FBI uncovered an underground distribution network trafficking over $3.5 million in fake Cisco network routers, switches, network cards, including some sold to the Marine Corps, Air Force, Federal Aviation Administration, even the FBI itself.

There's another angle: The FBI also raised the idea that the phony equipment were not merely cut-rate knock-offs, like those $10 pair of Nike shoes you'd find in the street markets in Seoul. Rather, they could be the products of some state-sponsored effort on the part of the Chinese government--the equipment originally came from that country--to surreptitiously embed secret back doors into military systems.

The evidence proffered was pretty light, but it does point out that the potential downside of buying such forgeries goes way beyond losing reliability in the network.

Posted by Joab Jackson on May 14, 2008 at 9:39 AM


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