I was reading back through the posts on Hackaday.com today and discovered this article.


From the page:

The FTDI FT232 chip is found in thousands of electronic baubles, from Arduinos to test equipment, and more than a few bits of consumer electronics. It’s a simple chip, converting USB to a serial port, but very useful and probably one of the most cloned pieces of silicon on Earth. Thanks to a recent Windows update,all those fake FTDI chips are at risk of being bricked. This isn’t a case where fake FTDI chips won’t work if plugged into a machine running the newest FTDI driver; the latest driver bricks the fake chips, rendering them inoperable with any computer.

Reports of problems with FTDI chips surfaced early this month, with an explanation of the behavior showing up in an EEVblog forum thread. The new driver for these chips from FTDI, delivered through a recent Windows update, reprograms the USB PID to 0, something Windows, Linux, and OS X don’t like. This renders the chip inaccessible from any OS, effectively bricking any device that happens to have one of these fake FTDI serial chips.

Because the FTDI USB to UART chip is so incredibly common, the market is flooded with clones and counterfeits. it’s very hard to tell the difference between the real and fake versions by looking at the package, but a look at the silicon reveals vast differences. The new driver for the FT232 exploits these differences, reprogramming it so it won’t work with existing drivers. It’s a bold strategy to cut down on silicon counterfeiters on the part of FTDI. A reasonable company would go after the manufacturers of fake chips, not the consumers who are most likely unaware they have a fake chip.

The workaround for this driver update is to download the FT232 config tool from the FTDI website on a WinXP or Linux box, change the PID of the fake chip, and never using the new driver on a modern Windows system. There will surely be an automated tool to fix these chips automatically, but until then, take a good look at what Windows Update is installing – it’s very hard to tell if your devices have a fake FTDI chip by just looking at them.

Link is Here

This is important information for all diy'ers. Im sure a lot of the cheaper imported modules,boards etc will no doubt have these in them.

Fortunately there is a fix in the comments for bricked devices.

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  • Give me a break, the millions of customers who purchased $5.00 to $100.00 dollar devices are going to sue a Chinese company - RIGHT!!!

    The company with the license is not simply making the "device" that you completely unknowingly purchase and stuck in your multi thousand dollar system inoperable, they are making my multi thousand dollar system inoperable to.

    In reality they are sabotaging it. 

    Wonder if they have these things in pace makers, I'm sure they are in our drones, can't wait to see one fall on somebody's head because of this.

    Lets see go after second rate Chinese Company or sue Microsoft for everything it's got - hard choice there.

  • But, is it realistic to imagine that counterfeiters would actually submit "their own damn drivers" to Microsoft driver store?

  • Looks like this issue is resolving itself.


    I personally didn't see a problem with the soft-bricking.  But now, it will just be required that the counterfeiters produce their own damn drivers.  I don't think that's too much to ask.

  • The devices haven't been rendered inoperable. There is nothing stopping the vendors of these devices providing a windows driver installer that writes a valid vendor id to their devices. It is only unlicensed use of the FTDI driver that was stopped. Blame the vendor if they sold you an unsupported device.

  • In most jurisdiction rendering a device inoperable is a crime. I am waiting for stories of deaths caused by this (given proliferation of those chips it would be hardly surprising). Involuntary butts## in prison in 3... 2... 1...

  • Gary, I totally understand your counter point, but this is what the legal system is for. When things start breaking, folks will sue who they purchased from and so on..

    All the fake designer items can be confiscated by police at any time as evidence and the purchaser is out the money and forced to bear the hardship.

    I tend to agree that if these point blank immediate nullification tactics do not exist, counterfeiter's will continue to do what they do with no regard.

    Now this has come to light, I surely hope integrators will be checking the quality of the supply line.

  • Hi Alex,

    I disagree, this is not at all the same as counterfeit currency, in fact currency has specific laws governing it that do NOT apply to anything else.

    It is also not like fake designer products which are in fact clear and obvious potential targets that are generally identifiable by the if its too cheap to be real it probably isn't maxim.

    These are items deeply embedded within other items which have no possible consumer purchaser owner onus attached to them that they even vaguely might be anything other than completely legitimate.

    By committing this act you are making the completely unwitting consumer responsible for a unknowable criminal act committed by somebody else.

    In fact the manufacturer themselves may not even have been aware, because they could easily have had the product misrepresented to them.

    Although clearly the original (unlicensed) manufacturer of this normally inconsequential chip is at fault, punishing the entire consumer base is ludicrously inappropriate and amounts to sabotage exactly the same as if I launched a malicious virus intent on erasing the storage media at the NSF.

    And it should be treated that way.

    Unfortunately our government probably cares a lot more about what happens to the NSF than it does to the American Public.

  • A point has been raised about if this should really ever happen, that FTDI should be concerned about the the possibility of far-reaching consequences...

    No, they have no legal duty of care or responsibility for cloned chips.  Perhaps a moral one, but not a legal one.

    If world-wide mayhem and panic had ensued, they would be safe on the high horse.

  • A publicity stunt to increase awareness of fake chips? http://www.ftdichipblog.com/?p=1053 (I see this was posted already)

  • I have no idea what any of this means....damn, I've got a lot to learn.
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