Apple, Amazon deny Bloomberg report about Chinese spy chips

Logo light box of the Apple store located on the Huaihai

As for the servers in question, Bloomberg reported that an investigation began more than three years ago after Amazon discovered a microchip on the motherboard of AWS Elemental's servers that were reportedly assembled by Supermicro Computer Inc., which has subcontractors in China.

But Bloomberg Businessweek cited 17 unnamed intelligence and company sources as saying that Chinese spies had placed computer chips inside equipment used by around 30 companies, as well as multiple USA government agencies, which would give Beijing secret access to internal networks.

One official told Bloomberg Businessweek that investigators found that the microchip problem affected nearly 30 companies, including a major bank and government contractors. It wasn't long before that company uncovered "troubling issues", which prompted Amazon Web Services (AWS) to take a closer look at Elemental's server products.

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

The Chinese initiative targeted almost 30 companies, Bloomberg said in an exclusive report based on a lengthy investigation. Apple reportedly severed ties with Super Micro in 2016. Elemental's servers could be found in Department of Defense data centers, the CIA's drone operations, and the onboard networks of Navy warships. "We are deeply disappointed", Apple said, that Bloomberg did not consider that its sources "might be wrong or misinformed".

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However, Bloomberg's sources are adamant. "One government official says China's goal was long-term access to high-value corporate secrets and sensitive government networks". And China's foreign ministry has said that the country "is a resolute defender of cybersecurity".

"Over the course of the past year, Bloomberg has contacted us multiple times with claims, sometimes vague and sometimes elaborate, of an alleged security incident at Apple", the Apple statement reads.
The Post, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, also cast doubt on the claim, but cited a USA government official who initially confirmed the story before backtracking.

"Apple has never found malicious chips, ´hardware manipulations´ or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server", the company said. It's also untrue that AWS knew about servers containing malicious chips or modifications in data centers based in China, or that AWS worked with the FBI to investigate or provide data about malicious hardware. In a statement to CNBC, Apple said it found a single infected driver on one Super Micro server in a lab, calling it a one-time event. Its statement said: "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". Apple, Amazon, and Supermicro deny any knowledge of such an attack.

There have been increased concerns about foreign intelligence agencies infiltrating USA and other companies via so-called "supply chain attacks", particularly from China where multiple global tech firms outsource their manufacturing.

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