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CAPEC-520: Counterfeit Hardware Component Inserted During Product Assembly

Attack Pattern ID: 520
Abstraction: Detailed
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+ Description
An adversary with either direct access to the product assembly process or to the supply of subcomponents used in the product assembly process introduces counterfeit hardware components into product assembly. The assembly containing the counterfeit components results in a system specifically designed for malicious purposes.
+ Likelihood Of Attack


+ Typical Severity


+ Relationships
Section HelpThis table shows the other attack patterns and high level categories that are related to this attack pattern. These relationships are defined as ChildOf and ParentOf, and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as CanFollow, PeerOf, and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar attack patterns that the user may want to explore.
ChildOfStandard Attack PatternStandard Attack Pattern - A standard level attack pattern in CAPEC is focused on a specific methodology or technique used in an attack. It is often seen as a singular piece of a fully executed attack. A standard attack pattern is meant to provide sufficient details to understand the specific technique and how it attempts to accomplish a desired goal. A standard level attack pattern is a specific type of a more abstract meta level attack pattern.444Development Alteration
Section HelpThis table shows the views that this attack pattern belongs to and top level categories within that view.
+ Prerequisites
The adversary will need either physical access or be able to supply malicious hardware components to the product development facility.
+ Skills Required
[Level: High]
Resources to maliciously construct components used by the manufacturer.
[Level: High]
Resources to physically infiltrate manufacturer or manufacturer's supplier.
+ Mitigations
Hardware attacks are often difficult to detect, as inserted components can be difficult to identify or remain dormant for an extended period of time.
Acquire hardware and hardware components from trusted vendors. Additionally, determine where vendors purchase components or if any components are created/acquired via subcontractors to determine where supply chain risks may exist.
+ Example Instances

A manufacturer of a firewall system requires a hardware card which functions as a multi-jack ethernet card with four ethernet ports. The adversary constructs a counterfeit card that functions normally except that packets from the adversary's network are allowed to bypass firewall processing completely. Once deployed at a victim location, this allows the adversary to bypass the firewall unrestricted.

In 2018 it was discovered that Chinese spies infiltrated several U.S. government agencies and corporations as far back as 2015 by including a malicious microchip within the motherboard of servers sold by Elemental Technologies to the victims. Although these servers were assembled via a U.S. based company, the motherboards used within the servers were manufactured and maliciously altered via a Chinese subcontractor. Elemental Technologies then sold these malicious servers to various U.S. government agencies, such as the DoD and CIA, and corporations like Amazon and Apple. The malicious microchip provided adversaries with a backdoor into the system, which further allowed them to access any network that contained the exploited systems, to exfiltrate data to be sent to the Chinese government.[REF-713]

+ Taxonomy Mappings
Section HelpCAPEC mappings to ATT&CK techniques leverage an inheritance model to streamline and minimize direct CAPEC/ATT&CK mappings. Inheritance of a mapping is indicated by text stating that the parent CAPEC has relevant ATT&CK mappings. Note that the ATT&CK Enterprise Framework does not use an inheritance model as part of the mapping to CAPEC.
Relevant to the ATT&CK taxonomy mapping
Entry IDEntry Name
1195.003Supply Chain Compromise: Compromise Hardware Supply Chain
+ References
[REF-439] John F. Miller. "Supply Chain Attack Framework and Attack Patterns". The MITRE Corporation. 2013. <>.
[REF-712] Cristin Goodwin and Joram Borenstein. "Guarding against supply chain attacks—Part 2: Hardware risks". Microsoft. 2020-02-03. <>. URL validated: 2022-02-17.
[REF-713] Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley. "The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies". Bloomberg. 2018-10-04. <>. URL validated: 2022-02-17.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
(Version 2.6)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Modification DateModifierOrganization
(Version 2.7)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Typical_Likelihood_of_Exploit
(Version 3.2)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Related_Attack_Patterns
(Version 3.5)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Related_Attack_Patterns
(Version 3.7)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Description, Example_Instances, Mitigations, Prerequisites, References
(Version 3.8)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Taxonomy_Mappings
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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: July 31, 2018