FTDI Responds to FT232 Driver Fallout

FTDIGate FTDI Bricks Counterfeit Chips

A few weeks ago the maker / tech consumer world was sent into an uproar when it was revealed that FTDI had snuck in an updated version of its FT232 drivers and included a feature that bricked any device using a counterfeit FT232 chip. This obviously caused a huge PR issue for FTDI in both the hobbyist community as well as the professional EE community as there is very little evidence if any at all as to which chip manufacturers were using in off-the-shelf devices. It appears that FTDI has back-peddled some and has removed the driver from the windows update, as well as issuing an official statement. The statement has been quoted in full at the bottom of this post. Furthermore, our friends over at HackADay have reported on exactly how FTDI was able to brick counterfeit devices, and has dug deeper into the issue. Head over there for the full scoop.


Additionally our friendly Aussie EE, Dave Jones of the EEVBlog, has released a pretty awesome video calling out FTDI for their idiocracy in thinking this kind of counterfeit prevention was a good idea. The video is embedded below. 



I am all for a manufacturer's right to protect its IP, but the point when their "protection" methods begin targeting innocent, unknowing, and unassuming consumers is when I begin taking issue. The action to brick devices would be complete justified if consumers had a way to know that the device they were buying was built using counterfeit components, but unless you open up the device and take a look at its circuit boards, there is no way of knowing. Furthermore, it is actually very hard to differentiate between a legit FTDI FT232 chip and a counterfeit one. While some may be obvious, the counterfeit chips are most times made in the same factory and encased in what appears to be a legit package. Check out this image below. One chip is the real deal, and the other is a 100% knockoff. Even at magnified levels, this chip which is smaller than 1/4" is almost impossible to recognize as a fake. 

Fake FTDI FT232 chip.

FTDI's Official Response on #FTDIgate

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 authorized 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


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