Government Backs Apple and Amazon Denials of Spy Chips

As we reported last week, Bloomberg published a story claiming that China had secretly installed microchips on motherboards built by Supermicro that were used in data center servers of companies such as Apple and Amazon. In the first official response from the U.S. government, Homeland Security issued a statement indicating that it has “no reason to doubt” the denials issued by Apple, Amazon and Supermicro in the wake of the report. The Homeland Security statement is similar to comments released by the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre.

Bloomberg said, citing more than a dozen sources, that China installed tiny chips on motherboards built by Supermicro, which companies across the U.S. tech industry — including Amazon and Apple — have used to power servers in their data centers,” reports TechCrunch. “The chip can reportedly compromise data on the server, allowing China to spy on some of the world’s most wealthy and powerful companies.”

Amazon, Apple and Supermicro responded by publishing statements on their websites denying the claims made in the original report. However, Bloomberg said it is backing the findings of its investigation, claiming that the breach is classified and has been under federal investigation now for three years.

According to Reuters, Apple VP for information security George Stathakopoulos wrote “to the Senate and House commerce committees that the company had repeatedly investigated and found no evidence” to support the Bloomberg claims.

“Apple’s proprietary security tools are continuously scanning for precisely this kind of outbound traffic, as it indicates the existence of malware or other malicious activity,” wrote Stathakopoulos in the letter. “Nothing was ever found.”

“The reality is that days after this story broke, it seems many of the smartest, technically minded, rational cybersecurity experts still don’t know who to believe — Bloomberg, or everyone else. And until someone gets their hands on these apparent chips, don’t expect that to change any time soon,” suggests TechCrunch.

China Reportedly Used Tiny Chips to Hack U.S. Companies, ETCentric, 10/4/18
The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies, Bloomberg Businessweek, 10/4/18
The Big Hack: Statements From Amazon, Apple, Supermicro, and the Chinese Government, Bloomberg Businessweek, 10/4/18

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