Clocked

CPU smugglers are strapping merch to themselves like drug dealers

A CPU smuggler has been caught at the border crossing between China and Hong Kong with 256 Intel CPUs strapped to their body. The technique used to conceal the CPUs, which ultimately proved unsuccessful, looks remarkably similar to that used for smuggling drugs.

CPUs have become such a valuable commodity that becoming a CPU smuggler is now a valid career choice. I guess anything can be smuggled, and for that matter stolen, but it truly is a sign of the times. Technology is officially the opiate of the masses.

This particular case, where the CPU smuggler was arrested at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (which acts as a border crossing station between Hong Kong, China, and Macau), is indicative of just how valuable and scarce these chips have become. The global chip shortage is one of the factors responsible for how difficult it is to score new PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S consoles.

ps5 cpu
Image: Sony

The rationale for this sort of CPU smuggling operation is that the products, which are manufactured in China, can be sold for a great deal more in places such as Hong Kong. And because of the shared border, it is an obvious destination.

The CPUs in question are Intel  i7-10700 and i9-10900Ks. Depending on the generation and exact model of the chip, these products retail for around $650 USD each, meaning that this CPU smuggler’s haul, in the right market, could have been worth over $150,000 USD. Which isn’t too shabby.

cpu smuggler
Image: Intel

Less appealing, however, are the potential consequences. According to authorities, “any person found guilty of importing or exporting unmanifested cargo is liable to a maximum fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years.”

So while you might think ‘it’s not like it was drugs’, the punishments are still rather significant.

Also significant is the aesthetic of the whole thing. When I first saw a screenshot of the CPU smuggler, strapped up tightly with his precious loot, I thought I was looking at someone doing a shitty cosplay of a Cyberpunk 2077 character. So it’s probably only a matter of time until we start seeing the CPUs strapped to the outside of people’s outfits.

Considering their value it would be a bit of flex. Welcome to Night City, I guess.