Apple denies explosive report of Chinese hacking on its servers

05 October, 2018, 05:55 | Author: Manuel Hopkins
  • Chinese spying microchips found in Apple, Amazon computers: report

In total, it is believed up to 30 companies may have been affected by the severe compromise of server hardware found in supply chains.

San Jose, California-based Super Micro strongly denied that it sold servers to customers contained malicious microchips in the motherboards of those systems.

Citing unnamed USA officials, Bloomberg said a unit of the People's Liberation Army were involved in the operation that placed the chips on equipment manufactured in China for US-based Super Micro Computer Inc.

Chinese military members were able sneak the compromised microchips into various Chinese factories where the motherboards were assembled, the report said.

Supermicro's customers include Elemental Technologies, a streaming services startup which was acquired by Amazon in 2015 and provided the foundation for the expansion of the Amazon Prime Video platform. The company's name was later changed to AWS Elemental.

Several servers were dispatched to Ontario, Canada, where testers found a tiny microchip that was not part of the motherboard's original design.

Supermicro, according to Bloomberg, also manufactured equipment for Department of Defense data centers, the CIA's drone operations, and onboard networks of Navy warships.

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The chips were reportedly built to be as inconspicuous as possible and to mimic signal conditioning couplers. Amazon reported the matter to U.S. authorities, who determined that the chips allowed attackers to create "a stealth doorway" into networks using those servers, the story said. "Attacking Supermicro motherboards is like attacking Windows".

Amazon and Apple both denied there was any substance to Bloomberg's claims.

If these spy chip allegations really did happen, why would Apple and Amazon deny it?

Amazon reportedly discovered the issue in 2015 after buying video service firm Elemental. Elemental's technology was already being used by big companies. Bloomberg quoted "three senior insiders" as saying they had also discovered the tiny chips, which Bloomberg said were much smaller than a penny and were created to transmit information back to China about the data flowing across the servers.

Super Micro told Bloomberg: "While we would cooperate with any government investigation, we are not aware of any investigation regarding this topic nor have we been contacted by any government agency in this regard". "We have repeatedly and consistently offered factual responses, on the record, refuting virtually every aspect of Bloomberg's story relating to Apple".

Apple said in a statement it had "never found malicious chips, "hardware manipulations" or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server". This level of hardware hacking would be borderline unprecedented in scope, and Bloomberg claims the FBI opened an investigation (after the incident was reported by Apple) that's still in progress three years later. Our best guess is that they are confusing their story with a previously reported 2016 incident in which we discovered an infected driver on a single Super Micro server in one of our labs. We also want them to know that what Bloomberg is reporting about Apple is inaccurate. "China is a resolute defender of cybersecurity", the Chinese foreign ministry told Bloomberg. U.S. investigators, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, declined to comment.

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