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Did China hardware-hack Supermicro servers used by Apple and Amazon?
05 October 2018, 12:31 | Antoinette Holland
Report: Amazon, And Apple Among Nearly 30 Firms Hit By China Chip Attack
On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that the company at the heart of the matter is Super Micro Computer, also known as Supermicro, which is one of the largest suppliers of server hardware, workstations, storage, and GPU systems worldwide. But Apple pointed Business Insider to the statement it sent Bloomberg, which said it has "never found malicious chips, "hardware manipulations" or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server". One affected company had its servers used by US government clients, including Department of Defense data centers, Navy warships and the Central Intelligence Agency in its drone operations.
Bloomberg Businessweek says it received confirmation of the attack from 17 people including government intelligence officials, and employees of Amazon and Apple.
Apple - which tends to refrain from issuing direct responses to specific reports - has taken the unorthodox step of categorically denyingBloomberg's revelations.
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Super Micro Computer may have been the prime target in a hack allegedly carried out by the Chinese military.
"Apple never had any contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other agency about such an incident", the company said in a statement provided to Bloomberg.
According to the report, Apple also bought a number of servers from Supermicro, a Bay Area-based server company, around the same time. The company first discovered the chips in Supermicro servers in May 2015 and informed the Federal Bureau of Investigation about it. Apple planned on using these servers from Supermicro for its iCloud services. Apple insiders, too, offered information regarding the hardware attack that Apple reportedly fell victim to. The implanted chip was discovered back in 2015 by the United States intelligence services, however, both tech giants are said to have made discoveries of the chips at a similar time. We are not aware of any investigation by the FBI, nor are our contacts in law enforcement. At the time, Elemental had contracts with government customers like the Central Intelligence Agency, and according to the report AWS reported the discovery to federal authorities. In total, Bloomberg says, the hack allowed the Chinese government to spy on nearly 30 American companies. Amazon says this never occurred, as modified hardware or malicious chips were never found in its servers.
In a statement to Bloomberg Businessweek that was also provided to Fox News, Apple said that Bloomberg's reporting is "inaccurate" and the sources in the story might be "wrong or misinformed". Apple never had any contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other agency about such an incident.
Consumer data is not believed to have been involved in the security incident. The report alleges that data center hardware purchased from a Chinese company called Supermicro included Chinese spy chips that put the security of the networks at risk. Apple and AWS deny these moves involving Super Micro were related to chip worries.
There have been increased concerns about foreign intelligence agencies infiltrating US and other companies via so-called "supply chain attacks", particularly from China where multiple global tech firms outsource their manufacturing.
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