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Seagate Is Using IBM Blockchain To Fend Off Computer Counterfeiters Posted on : Nov 08 - 2018

Data storage giant Seagate has a counterfeiting problem. A quick search online reveals numerous guides to help ensure users the hardware they’re putting in their computer is real.

But the problem is actually larger than just retail customers buying USB sticks dressed up to look like hard drives. Not only are counterfeits making it onto some mainstream platforms like eBay, but something called the reverse supply chain, when customers return goods, is also vulnerable, increasing the risk that Seagate itself, which generated $11.8 billion revenue this year, is accepting counterfeits back into its own supply.

To prevent that from happening, the Cupertino, California firm has devised a two-fold plan aimed at cutting off the $100 billion counterfeit hardware industry from every angle. On one side, the hardware itself is coming under increased protection using cryptographic signatures similar to those that ensure each bitcoin is unique.

But to ensure the supply chain itself—the actual process by which every part of every product is accounted for when it is moved—is also safe, Seagate has been quietly working with IBM for the past two months to move that process to a blockchain.

If the proof-of-concept, which is expected to be completed as soon as the end of this year, is successful, it could help shine a light on the larger vulnerable computer hardware supply chain that is increasingly being seen as a matter of national security.

“We found a unique way of tying the physical product to the virtual world, through the blockchain,” says Seagate managing technology Manuel Offenberg, who is overseeing the project. “We think that’s where some of the novelty is, where we really can go from a physical product to the virtual blockchain world.”

While this effort marks Seagate’s first public push into blockchain, it’s also just a continuation of a years-old professional relationship with IBM, according to Offenberg. At least as far back as 2009, Seagate has been providing hard drives for IBM products, and after a brainstorming session in June helped confirm Seagate’s interest in the underlying technology, the companies formalized their latest project.

Still in the early stages of the build, Offenberg and his team of six based in Freemont, California are using the enterprise grade IBM Blockchain that incorporates the open-source Hyperledger Fabric, to track the movement of goods from the point of manufacture to the point of sale, and if necessary back again. View More