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China used tiny chips on United States computers to steal secrets

05 October, 2018, 00:30 | Author: Lloyd Doyle
  • Chinese spying microchips found in Apple, Amazon computers: report

The article detailed a sweeping, yearslong effort to install the surveillance chips in servers whose motherboards - the brains of the powerful computers - were assembled in China.

According to the report, Apple and Amazon used Supermicro products in their respective data centers until 2015 or 2016, when both companies abruptly upgraded and switched providers. This level of hardware hacking would be borderline unprecedented in scope, and Bloomberg claims the FBI opened an investigation (after the incident was reported by Apple) that's still in progress three years later.

Apple and Amazon have distanced themselves from claims that they were among United States companies targeted by the Chinese hackers. However, the report is supported by six anonymous current and former senior national security officials.

Apple Inc and Amazon denied the Bloomberg report that their systems contained malicious computer chips inserted by Chinese intelligence. This person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters not approved for public release. But then again, China makes an very bad lot more hardware than the US does.

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.

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.


The chips were reportedly created to steal IP and trade secrets from American companies. "One government official says China's goal was long-term access to high-value corporate secrets and sensitive government networks".

Super Micro Computer may have been the prime target in a hack allegedly carried out by the Chinese military.

Investigators say that a unit of China's People's Liberation Army planted chips the size of a pencil point onto computer motherboards being built for a USA company called Supermicro.

Bloomberg claims that the chips were initially and independently discovered by Apple and Amazon in 2015 and that the companies reported their findings to the FBI, prompting an investigation that remains ongoing. The news report says that it was inserted in motherboards when they were manufactured in Chinese factories.

Apple took Bloomberg to task, saying the agency had contacted it "multiple times with claims, sometimes vague and sometimes elaborate, of an alleged security incident".

Apple pointed Business Insider to the statement it sent Bloomberg, which said: "Apple has never found malicious chips, "hardware manipulations" or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server". Apple never had any contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other agency about such an incident. Bloomberg claims Amazon discovered them ahead of its 2015 acquisition of Elemental Systems and reported the chips to the Federal Bureau of Investigation before removing them all within a one-month period.

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