There has long been a concern that Chinese technology firms could be used as an attack vector for the Chinese government, and Bloomberg today reports that companies including Amazon and Apple discovered Chinese surveillance chips in a number of server motherboards that were contracted from Super Micro.
While Bloomberg claims there were several of these discovered, Apple is strongly denying that was the case and has even gone so far as to send a number of press releases to reiterate the fact.
In a statement that was sent to press today, Apple vented its frustration that Bloomberg’s “reporters have not been open to the possibility that they or their sources might be wrong or misinformed.” In actual fact, Apple claims that it did find an infected driver on a single Super Micro server in a lab back in 2015, with that very incident having already been reported by The Information last year. Apple subsequently ended its relationship with Super Micro in 2016, and the goings-on were reported to the FBI, according to the Bloomberg report.
The report also claims that Amazon spotted a chip of its own around the same time and also informed the FBI. The suspicion is that the chips were added as a hardware attack, allowing the Chinese government to spy on the US companies and their users.
Apple is clearly not happy about the report, and it believes Bloomberg to have gotten important facts wrong particularly relating to the severity of the incident. The full press release sent can be read below, and the tone is unmistakable.
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.
On this we can be very clear: Apple has never found malicious chips, “hardware manipulations” or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server. Apple never had any contact with the FBI or any other agency about such an incident. We are not aware of any investigation by the FBI, nor are our contacts in law enforcement.
In response to Bloomberg’s latest version of the narrative, we present the following facts: Siri and Topsy never shared servers; Siri has never been deployed on servers sold to us by Super Micro; and Topsy data was limited to approximately 2,000 Super Micro servers, not 7,000. None of those servers has ever been found to hold malicious chips.
As a matter of practice, before servers are put into production at Apple they are inspected for security vulnerabilities and we update all firmware and software with the latest protections. We did not uncover any unusual vulnerabilities in the servers we purchased from Super Micro when we updated the firmware and software according to our standard procedures.
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. Our best guess is that they are confusing their story with a previously-reported 2016 incident in which we discovered an infected driver on a single Super Micro server in one of our labs. That one-time event was determined to be accidental and not a targeted attack against Apple.
While there has been no claim that customer data was involved, we take these allegations seriously and we want users to know that we do everything possible to safeguard the personal information they entrust to us. We also want them to know that what Bloomberg is reporting about Apple is inaccurate.
Apple has always believed in being transparent about the ways we handle and protect data. If there were ever such an event as Bloomberg News has claimed, we would be forthcoming about it and we would work closely with law enforcement. Apple engineers conduct regular and rigorous security screenings to ensure that our systems are safe. We know that security is an endless race and that’s why we constantly fortify our systems against increasingly sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals who want to steal our data.
Over to you, Bloomberg.
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