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Super Micro motherboards used by Apple, Amazon contained Chinese spy chips

05 October, 2018, 05:53 | Author: Melinda Barton
  • Chinese spying microchips found in Apple, Amazon computers: report

Apple, Amazon, and Supermicro denied knowing about an investigation into the malicious chips, with Amazon also saying "it's untrue that [Amazon Web Services] knew about a supply chain compromise, an issue with malicious chips, or hardware modifications when acquiring Elemental".

The chips, which Bloomberg said have been the subject of a top secret USA government investigation starting in 2015, were used for gathering intellectual property and trade secrets from American companies and may have been introduced by a Chinese server company called Super Micro that assembled machines used in the centers.

The servers had been compromised during manufacturing and the chips activated once they were up and running, it said.

Amazon, Apple and Super Micro have all denied Bloomberg's report.

"Nested on the servers' motherboards, the testers found a tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn't part of the boards' original design", Bloomberg's Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley wrote.

The report cited 17 intelligence and corporate sources, who claimed that Chinese spies had also inserted chips inside equipment used by multiple U.S. government agencies, which could potentially give Beijing access to internal servers. The report says that the chips would connect to certain remote systems to receive instructions and could then do things like modify the running operating system to remove password validation, thereby opening a machine up to remote attackers.

Amazon reportedly spotted the microchips while doing the due diligence for its $US500 million acquisition of the USA video service firm Elemental in 2015. A year later, Apple ended its relationship with Supermicro for what it described as unrelated reasons.


Over the course of the past year, Bloomberg has contacted us multiple times with claims, sometimes vague and sometimes elaborate, of an alleged security incident at Apple.

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". It said it has never found any malicious chips, had not been informed that such chips were found by any customer, and never been contacted by government agencies on the matter. Apple said in a statement that "we have found absolutely no evidence to support any of" the allegations by Bloomberg Businessweek.

"We are deeply disappointed that in their dealings with us, Bloomberg's reporters have not been open to the possibility that they or their sources might be wrong or misinformed".

"We are not aware of any customer dropping Super Micro as a supplier for this type of issue".

The Chinese government has also rejected the report and stated that Beijing was a "resolute defender of cybersecurity". Apple removed all Super Micro servers from its data centers in 2016.

According to Bloomberg, the goal of the hack was not to gain consumer data, but rather to have "long-term access to high-value corporate secrets and sensitive government networks".

Apple said the incident "was determined to be accidental and not a targeted attack".

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