Cyber security agencies in the United Kingdom and USA have played down claims that the China military inserted spy chips into computer hardware before it was exported overseas.
A detailed analysis of the Bloomberg report on technology site The Register noted both Apple and Amazon "would want to keep any highly confidential information and contacts with intelligence services as quiet as possible". 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.
The letter follows statements on Friday by Britain's National Cyber Security Centre and on Saturday by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that those agencies have no reason to doubt denials from Apple and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) that they had discovered backdoored chips. Apple denied the report, and said that Bloomberg is confusing an event that took place in 2016 when the company found an infected driver on a single Super Micro server in one of its labs.
In their statement, the agency wrote, "The Department of Homeland Security is aware of the media reports of a technology supply chain compromise".
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Apple's press release was equally strong. "Nothing was ever found".
Apple and Amazon, two companies identified as victims of the hack, refuted Bloomberg's claims in statements on their websites.
The Bloomberg story, which cites 17 unnamed sources including three at Apple and four USA officials, claimed that the microchips were placed onto motherboards in Chinese factories subsequently assembled into servers by Supermicro.
"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. This is what had been alleged in a recent article by Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
"It is technically plausible", Jake Williams, a former member of the U.S. National Security Agency's hacking unit who now runs security consultancy Rendition Infosec in Augusta, Georgia, said in a Thursday web conference, the Register reports. In a statement of its own, Amazon said it had found "no evidence to support claims of malicious chips or hardware modifications".