China inserted Surveillance microchips in the supply chain of servers of nearly 30 US companies, including Apple, Amazon and Government contractors, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek report. Previously, the chips have used as a part of top-secret U.S. government investigation started in 2015. The purpose is to collect intellectual property and trade secrets from American companies.
The Bloomberg reports claims that microchips might have been introduced by a Chinese server company called Super Micro which made the machines used in the centers. China inserted surveillance microchips secretly into server’s motherboard which is the brain of a powerful computer, in an audacious military operation to further increase tensions between the United States and its main source of electronics components and products.
According to the report, the issue was discovered in 2015 which is confirmed by independent security investigators recruited by cloud providers. For this reason, Super Micro servers were removed by Apple that year, therefore, in 2016 the ties with Super micro got severe. A follow-up investigation was held including several governments agencies, Apple and Amazon decline these moves including Super micro involvement in such kind of operations and that China inserted microchips.
“Think of Supermicro as the Microsoft of the hardware world,” a former US intelligence representative told Bloomberg. “Attacking Supermicro motherboards is like attacking Windows. It’s like attacking the whole world.”
It is not clear how much of data has the China inserted chips collected, plus no consumer information known to have been stolen yet. Also, surveillance through altered hardware is more difficult to execute than just cracking a software, to achieve results is quite harder because the inserted components must be removed physically to get that data. Moreover, if we believe about data transferring then it has to connect to an outside computer portal and secretly bypass security connections enabling remote computerized spying.
Apple told CNBC: “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.
Amazon also denied the report and told CNBC, “As we shared with Bloomberg BusinessWeek multiple times over the last couple months, at no time, past or present, have we ever found any issues relating to modified hardware or malicious chips in SuperMicro motherboards in any Elemental or Amazon systems.
For now, Bloomberg’s reporting has not confirmed by the US intelligence on record sources, FBI Office of the Director of National Intelligence which represents the CIA and NSA, declined to comment for the story. But as we all know these kinds of Hardware operation carried out by intelligence companies, the NSA was also caught to have been involved in spying activities. However, it is difficult to judge the hardware system and security failures merely on reports, the US intelligence is still investigating the issue.
Before this matter, China was suspected to be involved in massive spy campaigns based on the hardware and components manufactured in the country. As most of the parts used in technologies come from China, Companies including component manufacturers Huawei and ZTE along with surveillance camera maker Hikvision. All these companies fall under strict scrutinization from the U.S government in the previous year.
That is why Trump administration has now put restrictions on trade with China because they think China is extracting intellectual property from the U.S.