The Chinese government inserted a tiny microchip on hardware used by companies like Amazon and Apple for spying purposes, according to Bloomberg.
“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 microchip was used for spying.
U.S. investigators revealed that the servers containing these rogue chips were assembled by Super Micro Computer Inc. Investigators discovered that the chip inserted at the supply chain level allowed spies to hack information belonging to banks, government contractors and companies like Apple and Amazon, who store data for numerous customers’ data.
“In Supermicro, China’s spies appear to have found a perfect conduit for what U.S. officials now describe as the most significant supply chain attack known to have been carried out against American companies,” Bloomberg wrote.
According to the report, no consumer data had been stolen. The spies’ objective was to be able to gain access to “high-value corporate secrets and sensitive government networks,” the report said.
Both Apple and Amazon have issued responses Bloomberg’s report. According to Amazon, this is the first it had heard about this.
“It’s untrue that AWS knew about a supply chain compromise, an issue with malicious chips, or hardware modifications when acquiring Elemental,” Amazon 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 responded as well. “On this we can be very clear: Apple has never found malicious chips, ‘hardware manipulations’ or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server,” Apple said in a statement. “Apple never had any contact with the FBI or any other agency about such an incident.”
On Tuesday, two days before Bloomberg’s story, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview with Vice that China’s government does not have access to its customers data. The interview surfaced on the backdrop of Google’s Project Dragonfly, a censorship-friendly search engine for China, and Facebook being banned from the country despite its best efforts.