Rated insecurity: Faux Cat 6 cable sold on Amazon

Beware: Some of the Cat 5 and Cat 6 cable sold via Amazon isn’t UL- or TIA-approved and could start a fire. So, before you buy, read the reviews.

Rated insecurity: Faux Cat 6 Ethernet cable sold on Amazon

Many of you are on Wi-Fi, but this is salient to you. 

Amazon’s enormous sales site is marketing Cat 5 and Cat 6 Ethernet cable with aluminum conductors, as well as “plenum-rated” cable that bears no UL markings and is likely fraudulent. This comes after a run of apparently bogus Apple chargers and cables. 

Why do you care? Several reasons: 

  1. Some of the Ethernet cable sold uses either copper-coated or copper-mixed aluminum. Numerous specs call for the conductors to be solid copper. Why? Copper meets conductivity specs and won’t heat up under load.
  2. Organizations using Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) to power remote Wi-Fi access points (quite common these days) risk having the cable catch fire due to overheating, or just melt and short—especially on long cable runs.
  3. Plenum-rated cables are self-extinguishing. This means if you put a nail through one (we hope accidentally), then a jacket surrounding the cable prevents setting something in the surrounding area on fire.
  4. If you add the two factors together, cable that heats up and jackets that don’t extinguish a possible flame, then the sprinklers turn on. We hope. 

Whilst perusing the listings, I came across numerous enticing examples. Why enticing? Because their cost is perhaps half, even less, of products that do meet the specifications. 

It’s unlikely you’ll know the difference—until the sprinklers start or the insurance claim needs to be made after the evacuation, fire, and related smoke and water damage. Whether it’s legal to sell bogus cable is another question. 

If you go into the weeds of the Amazon product reviews, you’ll instantly find several one-star reviews warning potential buyers of the possible problems. The claims made by these negative posters are indeed true, but the product sales continue, as though they were Michael Kors bags made in a back alley of Bangladesh. 

The problem is one is telling Amazon they’re selling bogus stuff, made even crazier because there is no potential litigant until after damage occurs. If one was Georgio Armani’s attorney’s, or perhaps Tim Cook’s, the brand name alone would be sufficient cause to push a bogus product off the site. 

It’s nasty that there is no provenance possibility for such products, but in the case of nasty Ethernet cable, there’s no one from UL or the TIA to tell Amazon this stuff is bad, and make them listen—only the possibility that Amazon is named in post-disaster litigation. 

The bottom line to this is: caveat emptor, and read the reviews. There’s no good outcome to buying bogus, non-compliant Ethernet cable.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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