Engineers arrested for selling sample CPUs on eBay

By on January 4, 2012, 3:00 PM

Update: The engineers who were arrested did not work for Intel, as the story originally suggested.

Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) has arrested four engineers for allegedly selling sample Intel processors on eBay. The suspects, who were confirmed to be engineers at an OEM plant in Taiwan, were taken into custody in the city of Taoyuan.

According to reports, detectives had been tracking the suspects since September and conducted a raid on the individual’s homes last month. Authorities seized 178 sample CPUs with an estimated street value of $82,500. The suspects have admitted to selling more than 500 ES-branded chips since 2009.

Engineering sample CPUs, typically designated by Intel Confidential and ES markings are considered beta versions that are used for in-house testing, compatibility qualification, used as demonstrations or sent to media outlets for evaluation purposes. These processors are often times sent out to various outlets ahead of commercial releases with those on the receiving end having to sign non-disclosure agreements and either return the chip or agree not to sell it after initial testing.

Sample processors usually represent what will eventually come to market but there are some rare exceptions. Furthermore these chips aren’t quite as desirable as they once were. Engineering samples of earlier Intel chips like the Pentium 4 were highly sought after because they featured an unlocked multiplier which made overclocking much easier.

The CIB is urging potential buyers to steer clear of ES processors on eBay and further reminding engineers and those with connections to avoid running similar schemes as they could face up to five years in prison.

User Comments: 6

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dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

~500 ES's out of Taiwan ? Seems like a drop in the bucket compared to the thousands that pour out of mainland China every year.

hellokitty[hk] hellokitty[hk], I'm a TechSpot Evangelist, said:

Taiwan cares more though.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

Benches or it didn't happen!

Guest said:

I am sorry but I don't buy it. So the story goes like this: you are an engineer for a highly regarded company (intel). Then what is your next best move? steal some chips in order to sell them like a common criminal? Anyway you are able to steal 200 or so chips and over 500 over a period of 2-3 years? this is unbelievable - intel must have made cuts in the security department.

They don't give engineer diploma to everyone and if they did I know that intel would have known better than to hire shady individuals with a worthless engineer diploma.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

I doubt that ES's are handed over in that manner. Intel would send out hundreds (if not more) of samples to each OEM, motherboard manufacturer and other hardware and software companies for validation and debugging. No doubt many are "tested to destruction" with repeated on/off cycles of voltage and heat and stress testing of components...probably safe to say that these some of these supposedly worthless CPU's then find their way into the marketplace. The CPU's aren't going missing from Intel, they are being appropriated from the companies that Intel sends these engineering samples to.

Guest said:

@guest - You need to read a little more carefully. Nowhere did the article say the engineers worked for Intel. They were engineers at an "OEM plant" - think of all the notebooks and desktops that are designed and manufactured in TW....

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