Published: Thu, October 04, 2018
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Amazon, And Apple Among Nearly 30 Firms Hit By China Chip Attack

Amazon, And Apple Among Nearly 30 Firms Hit By China Chip Attack

A three-year investigation by USA government officials found that servers assembled for startup Elemental Technologies by San Jose-based company Supermicro reportedly contained tiny microchips "inserted at factories run by manufacturing subcontractors in China", Bloomberg reported. The company first discovered the chips in Supermicro servers in May 2015 and informed the Federal Bureau of Investigation about it. Apple planned on using these servers from Supermicro for its iCloud services. Apple, which has since severed ties with Supermicro for what it says are unrelated reasons, says it has never found "malicious chips" in its products. "Apple has never found malicious chips, "hardware manipulations" or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server", the company said. "Apple never had any contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other agency about such an incident".

Super Micro Computer said it was "not aware" of any government investigation into the issue and no customer had stopped using its products because of fears about Chinese hackers.

In a statement to Bloomberg Businessweek that was also provided to Fox News, Apple said that Bloomberg's reporting is "inaccurate" and the sources in the story might be "wrong or misinformed".

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It said dozens of large United States firms and agencies were using the hardware - but Amazon first discovered the chips, the size of a grain of rice, during a security review it ordered after buying a software firm called Elemental three years ago.

The full statement, which is available here, added that Apple always inspects its servers before they are put into production and if it found anything suspicious, it would have alerted the authorities. Bloomberg's piece is titled "The Big Hack" for a good reason, as it involves microchips planted in servers destined for big United States companies, which stealthily hooked to the networks their carrier hardware was hooked to. 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. Apple, Amazon, and Supermicro deny any knowledge of such an attack.

The US government on Wednesday warned that a hacking group widely known as cloudhopper, which Western cybersecurity firms have linked to the Chinese government, has launched attacks on technology service providers in a campaign to steal data from their clients.

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Supermicro for its part has also issued a statement refuting the claims in the report.

Bloomberg says its report is a result of information from 17 people, including six current and former senior national security officials, two from Amazon Web Services, and three Apple insiders.

In addition to the three Apple insiders, four of the six US officials confirmed that Apple was a victim. The targets, one said, were sensitive government networks and the secrets of big corporations.

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