Chinese spies were able to add a small, undocumented chip to data servers sold to the U.S. government and big tech companies, according to a blockbuster investigation by Bloomberg.
NEW YORK: Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc denied a Bloomberg report on Thursday that their systems had been infiltrated by malicious computer chips inserted by Chinese intelligence, according to statements from the companies released by Bloomberg. We did not uncover any unusual vulnerabilities in the servers we purchased from Super Micro when we updated the firmware and software according to our standard procedures.
We learn a few things from this statement, namely that Apple has been already asked for comments on the spy chips, and has hinted towards an earlier, much more benign incident. After spotting tiny chips on the servers' motherboards that were not part of the original design, Amazon reportedly showed its findings to United States authorities, "sending a shudder through the intelligence community".
Bloomberg cited 17 unidentified sources from intelligence agencies and business to support claims that Chinese spies had placed computer chips inside equipment used by about 30 companies and multiple US government agencies, which would give Beijing secret access to internal networks.
"We remain unaware of any such investigation", said Super Micro.
Carrying out the attack involved "developing a deep understanding of a product's design, manipulating components at the factory, and ensuring that the doctored devices made it through the global logistics chain to the desired location", it said. Amazon reported the matter to U.
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All parties referenced in the Bloomberg story make similar claims.
Three "senior insiders" claim that Apple found malicious chips on Supermicro motherboards, also in 2015, and severed its ties with the company the following year. "Apple never had any contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other agency about such an incident", the company said in a statement provided to Bloomberg. Apple said in a statement that "we have found absolutely no evidence to support any of" the allegations by Bloomberg Businessweek.
"We are deeply disappointed that in [Bloomberg's] dealings with us, Bloomberg's reporters have not been open to the possibility that they or their sources might be wrong or misinformed".
"We are not aware of any customer dropping Super Micro as a supplier for this type of issue". And China's foreign ministry has said that the country "is a resolute defender of cybersecurity".
Bloomberg said the denials were countered by testimony from "six current and former national security officials" as well as insiders at both Apple and Amazon who had detailed the investigation and its aftermath.
Bloomberg quoted Super Micro as saying it was not aware of the issues described in the report. Apple and Amazon were two of the most notable reported victims, with, according to Bloomberg, Apple's Siri and Topsy servers affected and Amazon's AWS servers affected.