In News & Blogs

The grey market has long been a blight on the IT industry. Cisco, as one of the world’s most recognised brands, are not exempt from its effects. Counterfeiters’ unwaning determination to exploit Cisco’s trusted reputation recently hit the headlines again. Computer Weekly exposed exactly how products were spoofed, and the risks that come with going grey.


Cisco’s Brand Protection team work around the clock to try and stamp out the most prolific producers and distributors of inauthentic Cisco technology. They work directly with law enforcement and customs departments globally to protect customers and partners alike from the perils of unauthorised products. Together, they have dramatically reduced the number of fakes in the market but eradicating the problem altogether is a huge challenge.


Cheap, but far from cheerful


So how do grey market products end up being used? For some organisations, products can inadvertently end up in their network thanks to unclear supply chains. For others, the lure of cheaper grey market prices for Cisco-quality products can be too hard to resist. But whilst buying grey can seem like a budget-friendly shortcut, the reality can be very different.


The simple truth is that however grey market products end up in a network, buying from non-authorised sources is illegal.


The very reason why customers want to buy Cisco is because of the product quality, and yet the origins of grey market products are murky at best. The products themselves have the potential to be stolen or counterfeit. Even those that are genuine Cisco certified products, and are simply being sold out of market, will leave you in a difficult position when something goes wrong. Without any warranties or assurance provisions, you simply don’t qualify to receive the support that comes with buying genuine product from in-region.


However, recent discoveries prove that there are more sinister considerations to be aware of.


A case in point


That same Computer Weekly article reveals how clients of Finnish cybersecurity specialists, F-Secure, only discovered counterfeit Cisco switches in their network during a software upgrade. When the switches failed to perform within the updated network, they handed them over to F-Secure for further examination.


The cosmetic differences were found to be almost imperceptible to anyone other than experts. However, even a really good fake is still a fake. When F-Secure delved deeper into the composition of the switches, they revealed how the switches passed Cisco authentication processes by circumventing the Secure Boot process every time the system booted up. With Secure Boot rendered ineffective, and the switches situated in such a privileged network position, they represented a serious vulnerability and a backdoor for exploits such as malware and ransomware. It’s a worrying reminder of how using counterfeit products, either intentionally or unintentionally, could leave your data, and therefore your business, highly exposed.


Grey market alternatives


With grey market products now having the potential to be more malicious than just a cheap imitation, businesses need to consider whether the initial saving is worth the long-term risk. For those looking to procure Cisco products as economically as possible, there are other more secure and crucially, authorised, routes that you can take. For cost efficiencies with confirmed provenance, you should consider Cisco Refresh.


Cisco Refresh offers access to genuine Cisco technology at highly attractive discounts, typically up to 40% less. More often than not, Refresh products are unsold, unused equipment that has never been out of the box. Alternatively, they may be previously-owned products that have been bought back from customers following their own refresh project. Cisco put all their Refresh products through vigorous testing before rebuilding them to better-than-new status and re-releasing them at this lower price point. They come with all the same warranties and protections as buying brand new products, but with the added benefits of more sustainable and economic procurement.


Alternatively, businesses should consider whether their Cisco technology even needs to be replaced at all. Cistor offer a range of solutions which extend the working life of a wide variety of Cisco products, allowing our customers to extract maximum value from their existing purchases.


Regardless of budget or business objectives, it’s vital that anyone who’s looking to buy Cisco does so through a reputable, authorised procurement channel. This means using an accredited Cisco partner like Cistor. As Cisco’s largest European Refresh partner, and a Premier Cisco partner, Cistor are best-placed to help businesses find the best procurement option for them.


To learn more about Cisco Refresh, get in touch with a member of the team.

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