Chipmaker FTDI bricking counterfeit kit

USB-serial imitators whacked by driver update

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Reports are emerging that chip-maker FTDI has declared war on chip counterfeiters with a driver update that bricks USB devices recognised as fakes.

Hackaday reports that the issue has been noticed in various forums – EEVBlog and Arduino among them – and pins the issue down to drivers setting the USB product ID to 0 if a USB device contains a fake FTDI FT232 USB-to-serial bridge in it.

The driver was delivered as part of recent Windows updates, but once the product ID is zeroed, Windows, Linux and OS X will all fail to recognise the chip, Hackaday says.

That report also points to this analysis of the manufacturer of the fakes at Russian blog Zeptobars. The engineer there conducted a tear-down right down to examining device layouts at the microscopic level, concluding that a probably-Chinese manufacturer is using a mask-programmable microcontroller to imitate the behaviour of the genuine FTDI device.

Last year FTDI weighed into the argument over USB in the open source world, when the USB Implementers Forum stated that even minor open source work with USB devices needed the $US5,000 to buy a vendor ID and allocate PIDs. FTDI said it would share its VID and PID with customers doing small or prototype product runs.

FTDI's config tool, here, will reprogram a target back to the correct PID, but the device will never be usable with Windows again. ®

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