Apple and Amazon.com have denied a Bloomberg report on Thursday that their systems contained malicious computer chips inserted by Chinese intelligence, statements from the two technology companies released separately by the news agency showed.
California-based Supermicro, one of the world's largest suppliers of motherboards, assembled servers for Elemental, which sent some of the equipment to Ontario, Canada, for the security company to test, the news outlet reported.
Tiny chips inserted in U.S. computer equipment manufactured in China were used as part of a vast effort by Beijing to steal U.S. technology secrets, according to Bloomberg.
Bloomberg said the retail-to-cloud computing company alerted United States authorities at the time, resulting in an inquiry and a string of firms cancelling Super Micro orders.
The reported Chinese chip in motherboards was discovered in 2015.
The attack was reportedly discovered in 2015 by the USA intelligence services, as well as by Apple and Amazon as the companies purchased servers made by Super Micro Computer. Bloomberg's piece is titled "The Big Hack" for a good reason, as it involves microchips planted in servers destined for big USA companies, which stealthily hooked to the networks their carrier hardware was hooked to.
Apple added that it had repeatedly provided on the record facts to refute "virtually every aspect of Bloomberg's story relating to Apple". It's untrue that AWS knew about a supply chain compromise, an issue with malicious chips, or hardware modifications when acquiring Elemental.
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An Apple spokesperson said: "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".
The company instead suggested that Bloomberg's sources may have been mistaking an incident in 2016 when an accidental vulnerability was found on a single Super Micro server inside the company. It was determined during an investigation, which took three years, that the chip "allowed the attackers to create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines", Bloomberg reports.
Amazon and Apple denied the Bloomberg report.
The lengthy statement can be found here (published separately from the original report), along with statements from Amazon, Super Micro and China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which are also named in the story.
Supermicro says that "we are not aware of any investigation regarding this topic nor have we been contacted by any government agency in this regard".
Bloomberg said the denials were countered by testimony from "six current and former national security officials" as well as insiders at both Apple and Amazon who had detailed the investigation and its aftermath.
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