'Made in China' May Have High-Tech Spying Implications: Longform

Chinese spying microchips found in Apple, Amazon computers: report

More than 30 victims are reported, including juggernauts like Amazon's Web Services, and Apple.

The unnamed US officials who informed Bloomberg's piece said the chips made it possible to modify the operating systems running on those servers, giving spies a way to remotely contact and commandeer those computers.

The Chinese initiative targeted almost 30 companies, Bloomberg said in an exclusive report based on a lengthy investigation.

However, Bloomberg says the denials are in direct contrast to the testimony of six current and former national security officials, as well as confirmation by 17 anonymous sources which said the nature of the Supermicro compromise was accurate.

Apple and Amazon have issued unusually robust on-the-record statements, refuting a Bloomberg report that Chinese spies planted microchips in hardware from supplier Super Micro.

Supermicro could not immediately be reached for comment, but Bloomberg said the firm denied any knowledge of the espionage or investigation.

Apple reportedly had 7,000 Super Micro servers operating inside the company, all of which may have been compromised. China's reported goal was to access these data centers and swipe confidential information. We also want them to know that what Bloomberg is reporting about Apple is inaccurate.

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We've re-reviewed our records relating to the Elemental acquisition for any issues related to SuperMicro, including re-examining a third-party security audit that we conducted in 2015 as part of our due diligence prior to the acquisition.

Amazon Web Services, which was building a super-secure cloud for the Central Intelligence Agency, hired a third-party company to study Elemental's security, a source familiar with the process told Bloomberg. After spotting tiny chips on the servers' motherboards which were not part of the original design, Amazon reported its findings to USA authorities, "sending a shudder through the intelligence community". Super Micro servers were removed by Apple that year, according to the report, which also asserts ties with Super Micro were severed in 2016.

Apple said: "On this we can be very clear: Apple has never found malicious chips, "hardware manipulations" or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server". A year later, Apple ended its relationship with Supermicro for what it described as unrelated reasons.

Supermicro is yet to respond to a request for comment, but told Bloomberg it was unaware of an investigation. "We are not aware of any investigation by the FBI, nor are our contacts in law enforcement".

The report, published by Bloomberg Businessweek, alleges that groups affiliated with the Chinese government infiltrated factories supplying startup Supericro in order to attach the chips to the motherboards. "China is a resolute defender of cybersecurity", the Chinese foreign ministry told Bloomberg.

The Bloomberg report claims that the rice-sized chips were hidden on server motherboards produced by San Jose-based firm Super Micro.

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