Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Apple, Amazon deny Bloomberg report on Chinese hardware attack

Chinese spying microchips found in Apple, Amazon computers: report Report: Amazon, And Apple Among Nearly 30 Firms Hit By China Chip Attack
Kenneth Drake | 05 October, 2018, 08:36

The article cited 17 unnamed sources, including industry insiders and current and former United States officials. "It's like attacking the whole world".

The surveillance microchips reportedly could have connected to outside computers and secretly downloaded software to bypass security protections, such as passwords or encryption keys, stored elsewhere on the affected servers, enabling remote computerized spying. "We stand by our story and are confident in our reporting and sources".

American companies design and sell leading technology products, such as servers, laptop computers and smartphones, but they are built and assembled largely in China. "We are not aware of any customer dropping Supermicro as a supplier for this type of issue".

Apple and Amazon deny the reports.

The exploit reportedly hit almost 30 American businesses, including Apple, "a major bank", and a host of government contractors.

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". Our best guess is that they are confusing their story with a previously reported 2016 incident in which we discovered an infected driver on a single Super Micro server in one of our labs. Amazon reported the matter to US authorities, who determined that the chips allowed attackers to create "a stealth doorway" into networks using those servers, the story said.

How could these microchips have hidden in plain sight?


To help with due diligence, AWS, which was overseeing the prospective acquisition, hired a third-party company to scrutinize Elemental's security, according to one person familiar with the process. Depending on the board model, the chips varied slightly in size, suggesting that the attackers had supplied different factories with different batches.

The United States and China are locked in a bitter and escalating trade war, in which hundreds of billions of USA and Chinese products are under tariff.

In an email to Gizmodo for this story, Apple pointed us to the denial it provided Bloomberg.

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.

Earlier this year, a Commerce Department investigation Trump ordered into Chinese trading practices found that China had hacked into USA businesses for commercial gain.

Amazon Web Services then sent Gizmodo an even stronger denial, insisting, "we have not engaged in an investigation with the government". So make of that what you will.

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