Monday, 10 December, 2018

Chinese spies reportedly used microchips to infiltrate Apple and Amazon

Amazon logo Modal Trigger Shutterstock
Orlando Vargas | 04 October, 2018, 21:41

The Chinese military surreptitiously inserted tiny microchips no larger than single grains of rice into servers on local assembly lines in order to gain access to data networks run by US government agencies ranging from the Department of Defense to the Central Intelligence Agency, according to an explosive investigation from Bloomberg.

Apple, AWS, Super Micro and China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs have disputed the report, which cites anonymous government and corporate sources, as previously noted by CNBC.

These chips could then reportedly be activated to compromise the networks of enterprise companies.

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.

According to the Thursday report, the chips were hidden on server motherboards being sold by the San Jose-based company Supermicro, during the manufacturing process in China.

The servers apparently made their way into everything from Defense Department data centers and Central Intelligence Agency drone operations to companies such Apple, insiders from which told the publication that malicious chips were found on Supermicro motherboards in 2015-the same year when Amazon's retained security experts found them.

If this report is true, why would Amazon and Apple deny it?
Amazon says this never occurred, as modified hardware or malicious chips were never found in its servers.

Bloomberg's sources claim that Apple removed about 7,000 Super Micro servers from its data centers in 2015 after discovering the malicious chips.

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Early this morning, Bloomberg published an exposé regarding security matters at data centers belonging to both Amazon and Apple.

August Cole, a coauthor of the novel "Ghost Fleet" - which features an eerily similar scenario involving Chinese chips hidden inside an F-35 that ruin its stealth capabilities, wrote on Twitter, "Hey Siri, what is my #ghostfleet moment of the day?"

"We remain unaware of any such investigation", said Super Micro. "Apple never had any contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other agency about such an incident".

Apple said it had refuted "virtually every aspect" of the story in on-record responses to Bloomberg.

Beyond an infected driver discovered in 2016 on a single Supermicro server found in Apple Labs, Apple says that such claims are "inaccurate".

The reported manipulation of electronics supply chains to USA companies is certain to sharpen long-standing questions about the crucial but uneasy relationship between the world's two leading economies.

Supermicro said in its statement, "We are not aware of any investigation regarding this topic nor have we been contacted by any government agency in this regard".

However, Bloomberg claimed its reportage was based on interviews with 17 people, including six current and former senior national security officials, two people inside Amazon Web Services, and three Apple insiders.

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