'China hack attack hits Apple and Amazon'

Gerald Bowen
October 5, 2018

The Chinese military successfully added a small microchip to computers manufactured in China and then shipped overseas where they were used at companies, including Amazon and Apple, as well as banks, and defense contractors, according to a report by Bloomberg Businessweek.

Both Apple and Amazon discovered the surveillance chips in 2015 and took steps to replace the affected servers, according to the report, which described close cooperation between USA investigators and affected companies.

Amazon and Apple were among 30 companies targeted by Chinese spies through a tiny microchip that infiltrated the supply chain for American technology firms, according to Bloomberg.

The attack by Chinese spies reached nearly 30 US companies by compromising America's technology supply chain, according to extensive interviews with intelligence and corporate sources.

The microchips were first discovered by Amazon, when the company had a third-party security company analyze the existing servers of Elemental Technologies, a USA based startup it was thinking about acquiring. AWS subjected the company to a security audit, which raised flags in the servers that Elemental customers needed to install on their networks to handle the video compression software.

Shares of the server company Super Micro were pummeled on Thursday after a report detailing an alleged Chinese hack that may have impacted companies like Apple and Amazon. However, citing "senior insiders" inside Apple, the report claims that once the company found these malicious chips on Supermicro motherboards, it severed all ties with it.

The data had been siphoned off via tiny chips inserted on server circuit boards made by a company called Super Micro Computer, reported the news agency.

Both Apple and Amazon have issued responses Bloomberg's report.

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Beyond an infected driver discovered in 2016 on a single Supermicro server found in Apple Labs, Apple says that such claims are "inaccurate".

"(In the) ensuing top-secret probe, which remains open more than three years later, investigators determined that the chips allowed the attackers to create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines.

However, Bloomberg's sources are adamant.

"Amazon reported the discovery to U.S. authorities, sending a shudder through the intelligence community".

Apple said: "On this we can be very clear: Apple has never found malicious chips, "hardware manipulations" or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server".

Supermicro said it was unaware of an investigation, while U.S. investigators, including the FBI, declined to comment. Apple and Amazon, however, both deny working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on a top-secret probe.

There have been heightened concerns about foreign intelligence agencies infiltrating American and other companies through so-called "supply chain attacks", particularly from China where several high-tech firms outsource their manufacturing, according to Reuters.

Two prominent U. S. cybersecurity companies warned this week that Chinese hacking activity has surged amid a trade war between Washington and Beijing.

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