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Apple, Amazon deny Bloomberg report on Chinese hardware attack

05 October 2018

"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. We stand by our story and are confident in our reporting and sources.

Bloomberg reports that a San Jose, Calif. -based server supplier called Super Micro Computer Inc., may have exposed hundreds of customers, including Elemental, to an attack that placed tiny unknown chips into servers that could open networks and servers to outside control.

It claims that thousands of server motherboards manufactured by Supermicro contained malicious chips, about the size of a grain of rice, that could be used to "access high-value corporate secrets and sensitive government networks".

The servers had been compromised during manufacturing and the chips activated once they were up and running, it said. A follow-up investigation was then conducted, which reportedly remains open to this day.

Chinese spies were able to add small, undocumented chips to motherboards in data servers bought by big USA tech companies, according to a blockbuster investigation by Bloomberg published Thursday.

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"We remain unaware of any such investigation", a Super Micro representative says in response to the claims. 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.

The company also noted that it does not design or manufacture networking chips and associated software used in its hardware, saying it procured them from leading networking companies.

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

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.

AWS told Bloomberg it had reviewed its records related to the Elemental acquisition and "found no evidence to support claims of malicious chips or hardware modifications".

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If this report is true, why would Amazon and Apple deny it?

"On this, we can be very clear: Apple has never found malicious chips, "hardware manipulations" or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server", Apple told Bloomberg. S. government agencies and private companies via so-called "supply chain attacks", particularly from China where many global tech firms outsource their manufacturing.

"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 said of the Bloomberg report.

The warning came after experts with two prominent USA cybersecurity companies warned this week that Chinese hacking activity has surged amid the escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing.

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Apple, Amazon deny Bloomberg report on Chinese hardware attack