Busted: Engineers Arrested For Selling Intel Samples On Ebay

And now, a message from the "Seriously, don't do this" department. Four Taiwanese engineers working for various Intel OEMs were arrested this week by China's Criminal Investigation Bureau for selling so-called "Engineering Samples" (ES) chips on Ebay and pocketing the proceeds. The police recovered 178 CPUs with an estimated worth of $82,590; the group has admitted to selling over 500 chips since 2009.

ES chips are often popular among overclockers for their rumored ability to hit higher clock speeds. Ironically, this is decidedly hit-and-miss. Intel regularly ships ES processors out to reviewers, and while it's true that some of these chips turn out to overclock well, some of them don't. Since Intel applies the "ES" label to any chip not meant for the mainstream market, it means consumers might be buying anything from a core-unlocked overclocking titan to a very early revision of a processor family that was only meant for platform validation.

Intel historically takes an extremely dim view of people selling these parts online, due to the problems it creates when consumers who believe they've bought a chip protected by a warranty find they've been taken for a ride. Programs like CPUID will identify a chip as an ES sample, but there's no other way to tell -- at boot, a chip will present normally.  ES parts are less valuable now that Intel now sells factory-unlocked chips, but may remain attractive to some because of Intel's feature segmentation. At present, the only way to buy an unlocked chip that also offers support for Intel's Trusted Execution Technology or Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d) would be to try to find an ES chip that offered both options.

The four engineers could face five years in prison for their activities.