Published: Tue, October 09, 2018
Money | By Armando Alvarado

Apple doubles down on Chinese hardware hack denial in letter to Congress

Apple doubles down on Chinese hardware hack denial in letter to Congress

(AAPL) and Amazon.com Inc.'s (AMZN) denials that their servers were compromised by Chinese spy chips.

The DHS issued its statement one day after The U.K.'s cybersecurity agency, the National Cyber Security Centre, came to a similar conclusion.

In a nutshell, the piece states unnamed sources saying that Chinese intelligence agents had managed to install chips on motherboards manufactured by a company called Supermicro, which were then used in servers operated by companies like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Apple and even in systems utilized by the US Department of Defense and the CIA. "The NCSC engages confidentially with security researchers and urges anybody with credible intelligence about these reports to contact us".

Apple and Amazon both denied the claims.

"Apple has never found malicious chips, "hardware manipulations" or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server", the company says, noting that it has never been in contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other US government agency about the incident that is alleged in the Bloomberg report.

The boards were used on servers owned by US tech firms, and the chips reportedly allowed the Chinese to obtain data on the compromised equipment. The US Department of Homeland Security also chimed in, stating that it is in agreement with the United Kingdom on this and has "no reason to doubt the statements" from companies named in the initial story.

In a letter to the Senate and House commerce committees, George Stathakopoulos, Apple's vice president for information security, said the firm had repeatedly looked for signs of the attacks alleged in the Bloomberg report.

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These servers were apparently purchased by Apple, Amazon and around 30 other companies, and also used by the U.S. and United Kingdom government - which could have given Beijing unprecedented access to corporate and state secrets. In a Monday letter to Congress, Apple wrote that the claims in the Bloomberg story were "simply wrong".

Apple and Amazon, the largest two companies which were connected to the allegedly affected supplier Super Micro, issued strong denials in response to the report last week.

"In essence, this story seems to pass the sniff test", says Theo Markettos, who is on the security team at Cambridge University's Computer Lab.

Bloomberg said on Friday it stood by its story, which was based on 17 anonymous sources.

"In light of your important leadership roles in Congress, we want to assure you that a recent report in Bloomberg Businessweek alleging the compromise of our servers is not true", read the letter published by Apple Insider.

Bloomberg has stuck by its report, insisting on its veracity.

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