Computing: Action on chip bandits

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The Independent Online
INTEL, the biggest manufacturer of silicon chips, has announced a series of steps to combat growing theft of its products worldwide, writes Malcolm Wheatley.

The announcement by the company's European vice-president, Stephen Nachtsheim, follows revelations about the chiprobberies in last week's Independent on Sunday.

In Europe alone over the past six months, there have been six multi-million-dollar robberies from Intel or its customers. Some involved raiders armed with guns.

Mr Nachtsheim's counter-measures include close liaison with European police forces and a full-time European corporate investigator. Customers and their employees are to receive copies of an Intel video that points out the risks of theft.

But the central plank of the company's strategy is improved traceability - at present chips are anonymous and easily sold in the burgeoning grey market that has emerged for them.

Intel intends to laser-etch into each chip a unique serial number - and record the name of its buyer on a database.

Will this be enough? Many Intel chips are sold to distributors, rather than computer manufacturers. Intel's database will record only the original buyer - not a subsequent one.

Given two identical chips - one stolen from a distributor, one bought legally from the same company, Mr Nachtsheim conceded, it would be impossible to know which was which.

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