Apple, Amazon deny reports of a massive Chinese hardware attack

Logo light box of the Apple store located on the Huaihai

Several people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that investigators discovered that the minuscule chips had been inserted by a unit of the People's Liberation Army in factories run by manufacturing subcontractors. Bloomberg's piece is titled "The Big Hack" for a good reason, as it involves microchips planted in servers destined for big United States companies, which stealthily hooked to the networks their carrier hardware was hooked to.

Not long after the report hit the internet, both Apple and Amazon vehemently denied the report's findings. The company also said that it previously used 2,000 of the company's servers, not the reported figure of 7,000.

Check out the full story and see the statements from the named companies here.

According to the report, Chinese spies placed microchips the size of a sharpened pencil tip in the Chinese-manufactured servers of one of the most prolific server-providers in the world, Supermicro.

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.

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

Amazon reportedly caught wind of the attack in 2015 during an evaluation of Elemental Technology, a startup it was looking to acquire. The report said that dozens of companies may have used sabotaged servers in their data centers before the Chinese operation was detected.

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

We are deeply disappointed that in their dealings with us, Bloomberg's reporters have not been open to the possibility that they or their sources might be wrong or misinformed.

The main motive of the hack was to gain access to secret corporate data on a long-term basis and not steal any consumer data. Almost all the critical parts of a server are made and assembled in China or Taiwan, and China's espionage operation has targeted the tech industry before, such as in 2010 when hackers believed to be working on behalf of the Chinese government infiltrated Google. 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.

The FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, representing the CIA and NSA, declined to comment to Bloomberg. Apple never had any contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other agency about such an incident.

Many US companies, including Apple, Amazon and major banks, were also using Super Micro Computer hardware.

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

Meanwhile, Beijing didn't directly address questions about manipulation of Supermicro servers, issuing a statement that read, in part: "Supply chain safety in cyberspace is an issue of common concern, and China is also a victim".

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