The Fraunhofer Research Institution for Applied and Integrated Security (AISEC) knows that some of the biggest knock-offs in the counterfeiting industry aren’t designer handbags or watches, but industrial machines.
The German machine tool manufacturers have become a prime target for copycats and counterfeiting because industrial goods and trade machinery don’t go out of date as quickly as consumer goods. This provides a much wider window for counterfeiters to learn a company’s valuable know-how and exploit it by selling undetectable knock-offs.
The problem is that once the counterfeit goods are already on the market, it is very difficult to detect them all because not everyone who comes in contact with them, from customs officials to distributors and customers, posses the necessary tools. AISEC is working to develop technology and counter-copy practices that will prevent counterfeiters from reverse-engineering the products in the first place, delaying their flood on the market.
The AISEC team consults with clients on proposed hardware and product characteristics beforehand, to identify security weaknesses and address the issue. To this end, AISEC has devised a cryptographic microchip to store the know-how data within the machine. The decryption keys for these chips are so unique, due to electronic impulses, that even units manufactured in the same batch in the original factory are slightly different. This could help prevent software rip-off as well as obstruct reverse engineering efforts.
AISEC also recommends clients to make technical safeguards, built right into the clients’ machines, to avoid a need for specialized hardware. This, combined with their new technology, should provide manufacturers a 5-10 year window of lead-time to capitalize on their ideas and protect their investments before counterfeiters steal them.