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Bloomberg claims China spied on Apple, Amazon using server chips Featured

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Bloomberg claims China spied on Apple, Amazon using server chips Pixabay

Apple and Amazon have issued detailed denials about an investigation by the news agency Bloomberg which claims that chips implanted in servers made in China for US server manufacturer Supermicro Computer — and which were also supplied to a company named Elemental which Amazon acquired — were used to spy on the companies, and also a number of government agencies.

Bloomberg said security testing by Amazon in 2015 had revealed the existence of tiny chips that were not part of the original mainboard design and that this led to an extensive investigation by US Government agencies which found servers built using these boards in data centres belonging to the Department of Defence, on warships, and for processing data being handled by CIA drones.

The agency said that major banks were also using servers made by Supermicro and that the government investigation led to several companies getting rid of the SuperMicro equipment.

Amazon said the Bloomberg story was untrue. "At no time, past or present, have we ever found any issues relating to modified hardware or malicious chips in SuperMicro motherboards in any Elemental or Amazon systems. Nor have we engaged in an investigation with the government," the company said in a detailed post.

Apple, in an even more robust statement, said: "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.

"Each time, we have conducted rigorous internal investigations based on their inquiries and each time we have found absolutely no evidence to support any of them. We have repeatedly and consistently offered factual responses, on the record, refuting virtually every aspect of Bloomberg’s story relating to Apple."

Amazon refuted some of the allegations in the story that related to its involvement, saying: "The article also claims that after learning of hardware modifications and malicious chips in Elemental servers, we conducted a network-wide audit of SuperMicro motherboards and discovered the malicious chips in a Beijing data centre.

"This claim is similarly untrue. The first and most obvious reason is that we never found modified hardware or malicious chips in Elemental servers."

Supermicro said in a statement: "While we would co-operate with any government investigation, we are not aware of any investigation regarding this topic nor have we been contacted by any government agency in this regard. We are not aware of any customer dropping SuperMicro as a supplier for this type of issue."

And the Chinese Foreign Ministry said: "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, co-operative and orderly cyber space."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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