While battling counterfeiters is nothing new for famous jewellery makers and popular video game companies, fake components have become a significant challenge for high-end electronic manufacturers, directly impacting NASA and the US department of defence.

At this year’s NASA Project Management Challenge, presenters documented how counterfeit parts have impacted NASA’s and the US military’s products and programs to the tune of higher project costs, reduced performance, product failure and extensive delays. In 2009, a NASA probe project was delayed nine months and exceeded its budget by more than 20 percent, partly because of a counterfeit part.

According to BrandWatch Technologies, a global leader in brand security and product authentication solutions, the problem extends beyond NASA’s dollars and timelines, risking personal safety, diminishing confidence in US aerospace programs, and impacting the businesses of legitimate component manufacturers.

“The effort it takes to get astronauts one step further into space is immense, so the fact that counterfeiters have penetrated our space exploration and defense programs is a shock and certainly raises concerns,” said Phil Huff, chief executive officer of BrandWatch Technologies. “Unfortunately, globalisation has made it more difficult than ever to control the millions of parts and sources within supply chains, including those that support NASA. The only way to truly protect legitimate companies and the integrity of their parts, and enforce NASA’s compliance and safety standards, is through proactive product authentication.”

In response to its counterfeit problems, NASA adopted SAE AS5553, an aerospace parts standard issued in 2009. The standard intends to mitigate NASA’s and the military’s risk of ‘receiving and installing counterfeit electronic parts.’ SAE AS5553 recommends that parts be subject to eight individual tests, including x-rays, thermal cycling and electrical testing, all designed to ensure the compliance of the products that the US aerospace programs and military purchase. These tests, as well as the additional guidelines in SAE AS5553, are good first steps in the war against counterfeiters, but additional efforts are required to address a product’s authenticity.

“Regardless of the industry, counterfeiters are in business to mimic the appearance and performance of original products,” added Huff. “Their fake products undermine the global economy, ruin businesses and put people at risk, so the question shouldn’t be whether a product will work; rather, is it truly authentic?”

In addition to protecting the component manufacturers that have invested in intellectual property rights and trademarks for their products, verifying authenticity also guarantees that the products are consistently reliable and have gone through the research and development, testing and legal processes that were created to ensure compliance and safety standards are achieved.

BrandWatch works with companies around the world to integrate authentication solutions early in the manufacturing process in an effort to create products that are extremely difficult to counterfeit. BrandWatch’s solutions can track parts from start to finish, instantly validate a part’s authenticity, and even determine if a part is in the wrong place.