China spying on Apple, Amazon and over 20 other companies

China spying on Apple, Amazon and over 20 other companies

Elemental's video-compressing servers were assembled by Californian company Supermicro, which in turn built its motherboards in China.

The report claims that six current and former national security officials let slip the details on the investigation and its implications.

Bloomberg, citing multiple sources, said the infiltration was first discovered in 2015 and confirmed by independent investigators before a full investigation was launched my multiple USA government agencies. Companies including component manufacturers Huawei and ZTE, as well as surveillance camera maker Hikvision, have all fallen under intense suspicion and scrutiny from the USA government in the past year.

According to Bloomberg, Apple discovered the malicious chips three years ago in hardware supplied by motherboard specialist Super Micro.

According to the report, Amazon Web Services uncovered the malicious chips in 2015 when examining servers manufactured by a company known as Elemental Technologies, which AWS eventually acquired.

The report of Chinese hacking chips being systematically added to servers produced in China comes after Donald Trump's administration has placed tariffs on technology components being imported from China. However, a total of 17 individuals claiming to have deep internal knowledge of both Apple and Amazon claim that the reasoning behind the removal of Supermicro systems was due to the discovery of exceptionally tiny spy chips.

The tech giant further stated that it was "accidental" and was not a "targeted attack against Apple".

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The report has attracted strenuous denials from Amazon, Apple, and Super Micro. In addition to large USA companies, the motherboards also were used by Defense Department data centers and Central Intelligence Agency drone operations.

China's ministry of foreign affairs responded by insisting it was a "resolute defender of cyber security".

Amazon, in a statement published by Bloomberg, said: "We've found no evidence to support claims of malicious chips or hardware modifications". 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.

We learn a few things from this statement, namely that Apple has been already asked for comments on the spy chips, and has hinted towards an earlier, much more benign incident. Apple never had any contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other agency about such an incident.

Supermicro said in its statement, "We are not aware of any investigation regarding this topic nor have we been contacted by any government agency in this regard".

If these spy chip allegations really did happen, why would Apple and Amazon deny it?

There have been increased concerns about foreign intelligence agencies infiltrating US and other companies via so-called "supply chain attacks", particularly from China where multiple global tech firms outsource their manufacturing. 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.

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