Evidently, one of the largest fears in the America’s tech world has come true: a supply chain compromise against massive American companies, or “The Big Hack.”
Or has it?
On October 4th, Bloomberg Businessweek published a breakthrough investigative piece claiming Chinese spies have placed tiny computer chips inside computer servers used by 30 American companies, include Apple, Amazon and several U.S. government agencies. However, following the investigation’s publications, many sources aren’t so sure of its credibility, include Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Arguments against the Bloomberg piece include Bloomberg’s use of 17 unidentified sources from various agencies and lack of physical evidence for both the microchip and the thousands of personal records that would have been exposed as a result of such a hack.
According to the piece, two officials reported to Bloomberg that “the chips had been inserted during the manufacturing process…by operatives from a unit of the People’s Liberation Army.” This is in reference to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China and Communist Party of China and specifies the unit specializes “in hardware attacks,” despite the piece’s admittance that “such a group has never been revealed before.”
Investigating where Bloomberg’s China Supermicro hack story is impossible or implausible. There needs to be an investigation as the technical details, as stated, have inaccuracies on how it can even work https://t.co/eynyClixOD @Apple @Supermicro_SMCI @awscloud @OVH pic.twitter.com/fYnDQBEfEf
— STH (@ServeTheHome) October 22, 2018
Super Micro Computer, the company which allegedly assembled and distributed the hacked servers, has released a letter to customers saying they will review their hardware for any proof of hacked microchips.
“Despite the lack of any proof that a malicious hardware chip exists, we are undertaking a complicated and time-consuming review to further address the article,” the letter said.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, in an unusual move for the massive technology company, went on record for the first time in an interview Buzzfeed News in order to deny Bloomberg’s allegations.
“There is no truth in their story about Apple,” said Cook in the interview. “They need to do the right thing and retract it.”
On Friday, Apple denied Bloomberg access to an iPad event, described by Cult of Mac as “payback for spy chip story.”
According to the article, Bloomberg typically attends every Apple keynote and the ban is similar to when Apple banned technology publication Gizmodo from their keynote after Gizmodo leaked images of an unreleased iPhone 4.
Another technology giant to allegedly respond to the story is Amazon. Since the article’s publication, Amazon has pulled all of its ads from the site, which has been interpreted by multiple sources from Buzzfeed News as a critical response to Bloomberg’s piece.
Following immediate criticism, Bloomberg responded to Business Insider for comment and argued on behalf of their story and when asked to comment for the Buzzfeed News story, reiterated the same statement.
“Bloomberg Businessweek’s investigation is the result of more than a year of reporting, during which we conducted more than 100 interviews. Seventeen individual sources, including government officials and insiders at the companies, confirmed the manipulation of hardware and other elements of the attacks. We also published three companies’ full statements, as well as a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We stand by our story and are confident in our reporting and sources.”