October 8, 2018 at
A new controversy emerged last Thursday, after Bloomberg’s new report that uncovered Chinese agents’ hardware hacking efforts. The report titled “The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate US Companies” claims that PLA (People’s Liberation Army) implanted chips into Super Micro servers’ motherboards.
The operation was done with a goal of compromising numerous systems and gain access to them. The report is complex and made in great detail, which require reading the original article to fully understand.
However, to quickly summarize it, the report claims that PLA managed to infiltrate Super Micro and sneak tiny hardware chips into its servers’ motherboards. Considering how large of a producer of hardware Super Micro really is, it is obvious why announcing something like this is a huge issue. The company has been known for supplying numerous companies and organizations, such as the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Congress, NASA, and many others.
How is Apple mixed up in this?
According to Bloomberg, the company Apple, known for its iPhones and other extremely popular products, is also among the victims of the hardware hacking operation. The report claims that Apple has been using Super Micro hardware for years, with the relationship between the two firms intensifying after 2013.
In fact, the company made plans to order around 6,000 of Super Micro’s servers back in 2014, for different projects that they were planning at the time. These servers ended up in around 17 locations around the world, including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Jose, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Singapore, and more. Not to mention the already existing 4,000 servers located in Oregon and North Carolina.
In the end, according to Bloomberg, Apple ended up using around 7,000 servers created by Super Micro. Soon after that, tiny chips were uncovered by the company’s security team. Bloomberg also claims that Apple has reported this to the FBI, although the entire affair was kept a secret, even within the company itself. One unnamed official even claims that Apple did not allow government investigators to access their facilities, nor the infected hardware.
Apple denied Bloomberg’s report
Soon after Bloomberg has published its report, Apple responded with a forceful denial of all of these claims. According to their response, Bloomberg has contacted the company multiple times over the course of the past year. Their claims of security incidents at Apple were sometimes vague and sometimes elaborate. However, the company claims that each time, they were false.
Apple also claims that they have conducted thorough internal investigations after each claim of a security incident, only to find nothing to support such claims. They openly and clearly stated that Apple has never found any malicious chips or other forms of hardware manipulation. Apple also claims that no security vulnerabilities were detected and that they have not had contact with any agency, including the FBI.
Not only that, but Apple also is not aware that the FBI is conducting any type of investigation that concerns the company, or its hardware. Apple also described security measures that it is conducting prior to any new software or hardware integration. All pieces of hardware are rigorously inspected for any type of vulnerability or flaw that might endanger the company and its customers.
In the end, Apple concluded its report by saying that it is disappointed with Bloomberg, which supposedly did not leave any possibility of having received the wrong information. Finally, Apple addressed its customers, claiming that all of these allegations were taken seriously and that the matter is being inspected each time when such claims are made.
What happens next?
Apple is known for making privacy and security one of the main aspects of its very identity. Because of this, a large hacking scandal such as the one described by Bloomberg may seriously damage the company’s reputation. Because of this, it is reasonable to assume that the company’s claims of inspecting each piece of hardware prior to using it are true.
On the other hand, Bloomberg claims to have detailed accounts from several Apple insiders, as well as multiple US officials who can confirm that their report is legitimate. Considering how serious the matters are, this is likely not the end of it for either Apple or Bloomberg. While it is not clear what will happen next, possible consequences may be quite serious for Apple, if these allegations turn out to be true.