In what could be the largest corporate espionage programs in the US, China managed to gain access to the servers of more than 30 US companies, which includes Apple according to reports published by Bloomberg today.
In its report, Bloomberg states, US-based server motherboard manufacturer Supermicro was compromised in China.
The supply chain of Supermicro was infiltrated by the Chinese government-backed groups to attach tiny chips which could barely be visible. The chips were almost the size of a pencil tip were attached to the motherboards of the servers which would land up in the US for deployment.
According to Bloomberg, the goal was to gain access to the entry points within the companies systems. This would allow them to gain access to the IP addresses and confidential information. The microservers implanted had limited direct capabilities but acted as “stealth doorway”. In this way, the Chinese operatives were able to alter the device functions remotely with the help of the information gained.
Bloomberg further mentioned that once the conspiracy was known the US government spied on the perpetrators. The agencies reveal no consumer data has been stolen via the attacks. Though the magnitude of damage is negligible still it remains to be one of the most striking espionage programs from the Chinese government to date.
Bloomberg in its article has explained how the chips were discovered and reported to the FBI by Amazon. Amazon found the chips just before its 2015 acquisition of Elemental Systems, where a company handling a range of U.S. government contracts, and Apple, had deployed up to 7,000 Supermicro servers. After this incident Amazon removed all these servers within a months period. Apple also cut off ties with Supermicro back in 2016 but denied to the claims and said it was due to some security issue.
Later Amazon completed the deal with Elemental Systems which was worth around $500 million and eventually moved its software to the AWS cloud. All parties involved Amazon, Apple, Supermicro and China Ministry of Foreign Affairs have denied Bloomberg’s claims and have sent a list of emails etc to support their arguments. Bloomberg, on the other hand, stands by its findings as it is sourced from at least 17 individuals with the know-how of the development which includes six U.S. officials and four Apple “insiders.”
You can read the whole entire story on Bloomberg here.
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