n explosive new report has accused Chinese military operatives of managing to implant tiny surveillance microchips into the motherboards of servers used by dozens of major American companies including Amazon and Apple in a scheme worthy of a best-selling spy novel.
The bugged servers and other equipment were sold to US banks, hedge funds, and even government agencies by the San Jose-based company Supermicro Computer, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, which cites numerous anonymous intelligence and corporate sources in its shocking story that now threatens to seriously shake up the global technology supply chain and do significant damage to Chinese manufacturers and the country’s developing microchip industry.
The malicious microchips, some of which were “not much bigger than a grain of rice,” were developed by specialized unit of the People’s Liberation Army and implanted into the motherboards in the production line in China, Bloomberg reports, describing the chips as being able to offer “stealth access” to companies’ internal networks and data, allowing Chinese agents to steal away intellectual property and trade secrets.
This is a photo from the Bloomberg story on the Chinese microchip planted into the supply chain bound for the US. Take a look at the chip compared to a penny! 😮 https://t.co/CYursk9sA2 pic.twitter.com/jZ5HMETNBr
— Melissa Chan (@melissakchan) October 4, 2018
According to Bloomberg, Apple first discovered the chips in their servers in May 2015 and quietly reported the issue to the FBI before severing ties with Super Micro the next year. Amazon later did the same thing,Bloomberg says, claiming that at a top-secret investigation into the issue remains open to this day.
However, all side have come out to vehemently and categorically deny the allegations in theBloombergpiece.
“There are so many inaccuracies in this article as it relates to Amazon that they’re hard to count,” Amazon wrote in a published statement on its website yesterday, denying that it had found any evidence of modified hardware or malicious chips.
Similarly, in an emailed statement, Apple declared that it had “never found malicious chips, “hardware manipulations” or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server,” writing, “We have repeatedly and consistently offered factual responses, on the record, refuting virtually every aspect of Bloomberg’s story relating to Apple.”
Along with claiming that their servers were never compromised by Chinese intelligence agents, both companies also denied any involvement in a secret FBI probe.
For its part, Supermicro said that it is not aware of ever losing a customer to this type of issue, adding that it does not know of any investigation and has not been contacted by any government agency regarding this kind of matter.
Finally, China’s foreign ministry has also issued a kind of response, calling China a “resolute defender of cybersecurity,” while adding that “We hope parties make less gratuitous accusations and suspicions but conduct more constructive talk and collaboration so that we can work together in building a peaceful, safe, open, cooperative and orderly cyberspace.”
— Bloomberg (@business) October 4, 2018
And so, in the end, someone must be lying. Is it Bloomberg and its 17 sources or is it Amazon, Apple, Supermicro, and Beijing?
[Images via Supermicro Computer]