Apple denies explosive report of Chinese hacking on its servers
04 October, 2018, 21:43 | Author: Mary Valdez
Apple and Amazon.com have denied a Bloomberg report on Thursday that their systems contained malicious computer chips inserted by Chinese intelligence, statements from the two technology companies released separately by the news agency showed.
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the country is a "resolute defender of cybersecurity", and while "supply chain safety in cyberspace is an issue of common concern [.] China is also a victim".
The tiny chips, as small as the tip of a sharpened pencil and created to be undetectable without specialist equipment, were implanted on to the motherboards of servers on the production line in China, the report in Bloomberg Businessweek said. "Over the course of the past year, Bloomberg has contacted us multiple times with claims.of an alleged security incident at Apple", the company said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg.
The operation, which Bloomberg Businessweek attributed to a Chinese military unit that specializes in hacking hardware, worked by inserting a tiny, innocuous-looking microchip onto motherboards in servers produced by Supermicro, a leading supplier of such equipment, based in San Jose.
According to the report, Apple and Amazon used Supermicro products in their respective data centers until 2015 or 2016, when both companies abruptly upgraded and switched providers.
You can read the full report at Bloomberg. "Apple has never found malicious chips, "hardware manipulations" or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server". But it said a top-secret USA government investigation, dating from 2015 and involving the FBI, remains open.
"Nested on the servers' motherboards, the testers found a tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn't part of the boards' original design", according to the Bloomberg report.
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In response to the discovery, Apple is reported to have scrapped some 7,000 Super Micro servers in its data centers, and Amazon sold off a Chinese data center.
The attack was reportedly uncovered following Amazon Web Services' (AWS) $500m September 2015 acquisition video encoding startup Elemental Technologies. "Apple never had any contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other agency about such an incident".
Bloomberg Businessweek says it received confirmation of the attack from 17 people including government intelligence officials, and employees of Amazon and Apple.
Apple added that it had repeatedly provided on the record facts to refute "virtually every aspect of Bloomberg's story relating to Apple".
The attack was reportedly discovered in 2015 by the USA intelligence services, as well as by Apple and Amazon as the companies purchased servers made by Super Micro Computer.
The reported manipulation of electronics supply chains to US companies is certain to sharpen long-standing questions about the crucial but uneasy relationship between the world's two leading economies.
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