Chinese Spy Chips Discovered in Apple, Amazon Data Centers, Report Claims

Oct 05, 2018, 02:47
Chinese Spy Chips Discovered in Apple, Amazon Data Centers, Report Claims

The servers supplied by Microcenter were used by major tech companies including Amazon, a major bank, Apple, Microsoft, and Google.

Once Amazon discovered the problem, it alerted the US government, the report said. 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. Elemental's servers could be found in Department of Defense data centers, the CIA's drone operations, and the onboard networks of Navy warships.

"All companies involved in the story, including Supermicro, strongly deny the Bloomberg report".

Elemental Technologies had national security contracts and servers similar to the one that Amazon tested were in data centers belonging to the Department of Justice, on Navy warships, and in systems used to control Central Intelligence Agency drones, according to the Bloomberg report.

China was well placed to carry out this kind of attack, said Bloomberg, because 90% of the world's PCs are made in the country.

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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".

Apple, Amazon and Super Micro have rejected Bloomberg's claims, calling them "untrue".

That just leaves Bloomberg, which claims the issue was first discovered by Apple in May, 2015 and quietly reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 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.

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.

Apple - which tends to refrain from issuing direct responses to specific reports - has taken the unorthodox step of categorically denying Bloomberg's revelations.

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Amazon also offloaded its physical server business in China past year, the alleged reasoning for which is just coming out now as being due to cybersecurity risks.

It claims that thousands of server motherboards manufactured by Supermicro contained malicious chips, about the size of a grain of rice, that could be used to "access high-value corporate secrets and sensitive government networks".

Chinese military members were able sneak the compromised microchips into various Chinese factories where the motherboards were assembled, the report 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.

Apple and Amazon stock were both down over 1% at the time of publication.

Supermicro said it was unaware of an investigation, while U.S. investigators, including the FBI, declined to comment.

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