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Author Topic: FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.  (Read 37819 times)
W4KYR
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Posts: 1798




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« on: October 22, 2014, 01:32:12 PM »

FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.

Since FTDI chips are used also in ham radio applications, this might be important.

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/14/10/22/185244/ftdi-reportedly-bricking-devices-using-competitors-chips

"FTDI has started an outright war on cloners of their popular USB bridge chips. At first the clones stopped working with the official drivers, and now they are being intentionally bricked, rendering the device useless. The problem? These chips are incredibly popular and used in many consumer products. .... A reasonable company would go after the manufacturers of fake chips, not the consumers who are most likely unaware they have a fake chip."
« Last Edit: October 22, 2014, 02:06:30 PM by W4KYR » Logged

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KB1NXE
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Posts: 382




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« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2014, 01:49:51 PM »

Same thing happened with Prolific.  Same issue will also start rearing it's ugly head at the same time.

Sooner or later you will update your driver and your interface will stop working.  If it's a clone/counterfeit that is.
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K4JK
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Posts: 456




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« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2014, 07:40:22 AM »

This isn't quite the same thing, as with a counterfeit Prolific chip you could back the drivers down to the last known working version and then be able to continue using the device.

FTDI has decided to configure the new drivers to change the USB PID on the chip to 0, which will render it completely inoperable, even under old driver versions or if the device is moved to another computer.

It's a bold move and will likely backfire on them, as most consumers have no idea if chips are counterfeit or not. Many other devices also have these chips put in them by the manufacturer, so the consumer may not even be aware that the device they are using has one.

Can't wait until until some serial device in a hospital (or any mission-critical device) bricks and kills someone because the manufacturer unknowingly bought lots of counterfeit chips on the wholesale market.
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W6BP
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« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2014, 07:53:42 AM »

Has FTDI actually admitted they're doing this?  I've seen a lot of reports, many of which quote the same source, but no confirmation from the alleged perpetrator.
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K3DCW
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Posts: 283




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« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2014, 08:11:39 AM »

FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.

Since FTDI chips are used also in ham radio applications, this might be important.

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/14/10/22/185244/ftdi-reportedly-bricking-devices-using-competitors-chips

"FTDI has started an outright war on cloners of their popular USB bridge chips. At first the clones stopped working with the official drivers, and now they are being intentionally bricked, rendering the device useless. The problem? These chips are incredibly popular and used in many consumer products. .... A reasonable company would go after the manufacturers of fake chips, not the consumers who are most likely unaware they have a fake chip."

Your subject line, albeit copied from Slashdot, is misleading.  They aren't bricking chips from competitors; they are (allegedly) bricking chips from counterfeiters who have stolen FTDI technology and are then cloning it; all while trying to leverage FTDI's $$$ spent on the technology, marketing and development. 

FTDI has the right to protect their technology and the money they've spent in development time and effort.  True, this is a bit more aggressive than the driver simply not working a la Prolific, but it is a reasonable approach I think.

The key is to buy from reputable firms, not the $2 eBay hacks that sell this counterfeit stuff out of Hong Kong or wherever. 

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K4JK
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Posts: 456




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« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2014, 08:15:15 AM »

Has FTDI actually admitted they're doing this?  I've seen a lot of reports, many of which quote the same source, but no confirmation from the alleged perpetrator.

I think all they have said is that "If this happens you have a counterfeit device and it will not operate with FTDI drivers." (Legal reasons I'm sure) However it's been verified that this is what is happening.

People in the Arduino community first noticed it as many Arduino devices use cloned FTDI chips since the platform is open source.

There is a workaround to "reprogram" your bricked chip's EEPROM with a new PID but you need Linux or Windows XP in order to apply it. And for now you can't plug your device back into a Windows 7 or 8 PC or it will brick again.

If you only use Linux you're OK as the open source drivers would never do something like this. Just don't ever plug the device into a Windows PC...  Cheesy

I'm generally sympathetic to companies protecting their IP but this is going way too far.
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KK4GGL
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Posts: 1315




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« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2014, 08:34:55 AM »

FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.

Since FTDI chips are used also in ham radio applications, this might be important.

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/14/10/22/185244/ftdi-reportedly-bricking-devices-using-competitors-chips

"FTDI has started an outright war on cloners of their popular USB bridge chips. At first the clones stopped working with the official drivers, and now they are being intentionally bricked, rendering the device useless. The problem? These chips are incredibly popular and used in many consumer products. .... A reasonable company would go after the manufacturers of fake chips, not the consumers who are most likely unaware they have a fake chip."

Your subject line, albeit copied from Slashdot, is misleading.  They aren't bricking chips from competitors; they are (allegedly) bricking chips from counterfeiters who have stolen FTDI technology and are then cloning it; all while trying to leverage FTDI's $$$ spent on the technology, marketing and development. 

FTDI has the right to protect their technology and the money they've spent in development time and effort.  True, this is a bit more aggressive than the driver simply not working a la Prolific, but it is a reasonable approach I think.

The key is to buy from reputable firms, not the $2 eBay hacks that sell this counterfeit stuff out of Hong Kong or wherever. 

Why do they have the right to brick a piece of equipment they don't own? Couldn't they simply insert code into the driver that would stop the driver from working on counterfeit chips?
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Rick KK4GGL
K0BT
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Posts: 22




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« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2014, 09:40:55 AM »

FTDI has every right to modify their drivers so they won't work with counterfeit devices.  I hope they do.  Their lawyers will tell whether or not it is legal to brick hardware they do not own.  Their marketing team will need to decide if the ill-will is worth the risk.

I enjoy lower prices as much as anyone, but if someone is selling me stolen goods (including intellectual property) without me knowing about it, then I want to be informed so I can stop doing business with them.

Anyway, two things to keep in mind.
1) I'm not convinced that they can overwrite the hardware ID, so we should wait until the hype subsides.
2) IF they can overwrite the hardware ID, then someone can write code to change it back again - and the battle will continue.




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K4JK
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Posts: 456




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« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2014, 09:41:41 AM »

And FTDI has now removed the malware from their driver update and will re-release it at a future date (probably so it just won't work with a cloned chip rather than bricking it)

http://www.ftdichipblog.com/?p=1053

Quote
We appreciate your feedback, comments and suggestions.

As you are probably aware, the semiconductor industry is increasingly blighted by the issue of counterfeit chips and all semiconductor vendors are taking measures to protect their IP and the investment they make in developing innovative new technology. FTDI will continue to follow an active approach to deterring the counterfeiting of our devices, in order to ensure that our customers receive genuine FTDI product. Though our intentions were honorable, we acknowledge that our recent driver update has caused concern amongst our genuine customer base.  I assure you, we value our customers highly and do not in any way wish to cause distress to them.

The recently release driver release has now been removed from Windows Update so that on-the-fly updating cannot occur. The driver is in the process of being updated and will be released next week. This 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.

As previously stated, we recommend to all our customers to guarantee genuine FTDI products please purchase either from FTDI directly or from one of our authorised distributors.  http://www.ftdichip.com/FTSalesNetwork.htm

If you are concerned that you might have a non-genuine device, our support team would be happy to help out.

Yours Sincerely

Fred Dart – CEO

Whoops
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ex W4HFK
W4KYR
Member

Posts: 1798




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« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2014, 09:42:31 AM »

UPDATE from FTDI

They will go about this in an different way so as not to "brick" any devices.
 
http://www.ftdichipblog.com/?p=1053

"FTDI Post
Written on October 24, 2014 by mikeg in Uncategorized

We appreciate your feedback, comments and suggestions.

As you are probably aware, the semiconductor industry is increasingly blighted by the issue of counterfeit chips and all semiconductor vendors are taking measures to protect their IP and the investment they make in developing innovative new technology. FTDI will continue to follow an active approach to deterring the counterfeiting of our devices, in order to ensure that our customers receive genuine FTDI product. Though our intentions were honorable, we acknowledge that our recent driver update has caused concern amongst our genuine customer base.  I assure you, we value our customers highly and do not in any way wish to cause distress to them.

The recently release driver release has now been removed from Windows Update so that on-the-fly updating cannot occur. The driver is in the process of being updated and will be released next week. This 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.


As previously stated, we recommend to all our customers to guarantee genuine FTDI products please purchase either from FTDI directly or from one of our authorised distributors.  http://www.ftdichip.com/FTSalesNetwork.htm

If you are concerned that you might have a non-genuine device, our support team would be happy to help out.

Yours Sincerely

Fred Dart – CEO"




Updated Slashdot article...


http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/14/10/24/1330252/ftdi-removes-driver-from-windows-update-that-bricked-cloned-chips



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W1BR
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Posts: 4146




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« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2014, 09:58:04 AM »

Does this show as an error code in the hardware profile the device using a counterfeit chip, or does it just stop working?
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W8JX
Member

Posts: 13268




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« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2014, 10:12:45 AM »

FTDI has every right to modify their drivers so they won't work with counterfeit devices.  I hope they do.  Their lawyers will tell whether or not it is legal to brick hardware they do not own.  Their marketing team will need to decide if the ill-will is worth the risk.

I enjoy lower prices as much as anyone, but if someone is selling me stolen goods (including intellectual property) without me knowing about it, then I want to be informed so I can stop doing business with them.

Anyway, two things to keep in mind.
1) I'm not convinced that they can overwrite the hardware ID, so we should wait until the hype subsides.
2) IF they can overwrite the hardware ID, then someone can write code to change it back again - and the battle will continue.


It is not really bricking it per say. It changes PID to 0000 which is not a valid ID for a FTDI chip and no driver will load. No FTDI also makes a utility that will let you reset PID and use a older driver but if you use newer driver again you get bricked.
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KD0SFY
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Posts: 451




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« Reply #12 on: October 24, 2014, 05:29:39 PM »

"FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips."

Incorrect.  They are bricking counterfeit FTDI chips.  Legitimate chips from competitors are not affected. 
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KK4GGL
Member

Posts: 1315




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« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2014, 07:28:17 PM »

FTDI has every right to modify their drivers so they won't work with counterfeit devices.  I hope they do.  Their lawyers will tell whether or not it is legal to brick hardware they do not own.  Their marketing team will need to decide if the ill-will is worth the risk.

I enjoy lower prices as much as anyone, but if someone is selling me stolen goods (including intellectual property) without me knowing about it, then I want to be informed so I can stop doing business with them.

Anyway, two things to keep in mind.
1) I'm not convinced that they can overwrite the hardware ID, so we should wait until the hype subsides.
2) IF they can overwrite the hardware ID, then someone can write code to change it back again - and the battle will continue.


It is not really bricking it per say. It changes PID to 0000 which is not a valid ID for a FTDI chip and no driver will load. No FTDI also makes a utility that will let you reset PID and use a older driver but if you use newer driver again you get bricked.

You say "It is not really bricking it per say"and then you say "you get bricked". Pick one.
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73,
Rick KK4GGL
W8JX
Member

Posts: 13268




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« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2014, 07:52:21 PM »

FTDI has every right to modify their drivers so they won't work with counterfeit devices.  I hope they do.  Their lawyers will tell whether or not it is legal to brick hardware they do not own.  Their marketing team will need to decide if the ill-will is worth the risk.

I enjoy lower prices as much as anyone, but if someone is selling me stolen goods (including intellectual property) without me knowing about it, then I want to be informed so I can stop doing business with them.

Anyway, two things to keep in mind.
1) I'm not convinced that they can overwrite the hardware ID, so we should wait until the hype subsides.
2) IF they can overwrite the hardware ID, then someone can write code to change it back again - and the battle will continue.


It is not really bricking it per say. It changes PID to 0000 which is not a valid ID for a FTDI chip and no driver will load. No FTDI also makes a utility that will let you reset PID and use a older driver but if you use newer driver again you get bricked.

You say "It is not really bricking it per say"and then you say "you get bricked". Pick one.

You are bricked to point a driver roll back will not fix it. A program that can that can rewrite PID can unbrick it for use with old drivers but it will never support updated drivers and will brick again if you use them.
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Ham since 1969....  Old School 20wpm REAL Extra Class..
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