China 'put tiny chips in USA computers to steal tech secrets'

China 'put tiny chips in USA computers to steal tech secrets'

The Bloomberg report claims that the rice-sized chips were hidden on server motherboards produced by San Jose-based firm Super Micro. "No consumer data is known to have been stolen", notes the Bloomberg report.

The chips were reportedly built to be as inconspicuous as possible and to mimic signal conditioning couplers.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a written request for comment on Thursday.

Apple and Amazon are among United States companies and agencies who have had data stolen by Chinese spies, claims Bloomberg.

Read the complete Bloomberg BusinessWeek report here.

The servers apparently made their way into everything from Defense Department data centers and Central Intelligence Agency drone operations to companies such Apple, insiders from which told the publication that malicious chips were found on Supermicro motherboards in 2015-the same year when Amazon's retained security experts found them.

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"(In the) ensuing top-secret probe, which remains open more than three years later, investigators determined that the chips allowed the attackers to create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines.

According to the report, Apple also bought a number of servers from Supermicro, a Bay Area-based server company, around the same time. A story by Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the USA is in the midst of a secret three-year investigation of the scheme, which it says was uncovered by none other than Amazon.

The attack by Chinese spies reached nearly 30 US companies by compromising America's technology supply chain, according to extensive interviews with intelligence and corporate sources. "It's also untrue that AWS knew about servers containing malicious chips or modifications in data centers based in China, or that AWS worked with the FBI to investigate or provide data about malicious hardware".

Both Apple and Amazon discovered the surveillance chips in 2015 and took steps to replace the affected servers, according to the report, which described close cooperation between US investigators and affected companies. "We have repeatedly and consistently offered factual responses, on the record, refuting virtually every aspect of Bloomberg's story relating to Apple". Apple never had any contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other agency about such an incident. 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.

Supermicro says that "we are not aware of any investigation regarding this topic nor have we been contacted by any government agency in this regard".

The details of the Chinese spy chips could worsen the US/China trade war, cause a surge in hardware prices, and open up new job markets in other countries. In all, 17 people confirmed the manipulation of Supermicro's hardware and other elements of the attacks.

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