Has China been spying on the US with a secret chip implanted in hardware?
According to a Bloomberg report today, data center equipment used by Amazon Web Services (AWS) (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) may have had a tiny microchip inserted during manufacturing. This secret chip would mean the Chinese government has been spying on the tech giants.
Both companies have disputed the claims, and while it’s plausible, it feels more like something from a Mission Impossible movie.
If this is indeed true, however, the issue has been the subject of a top secret US investigation dating back to 2015. The secret chip would give intel on intellectual property and trade secrets from American companies. These chips are reportedly implanted by a Chinese server company called Super Micro (OTC:SMCI), the company responsible for assembling machines used in the data centers.
All aforementioned companies have denied the claims. Apple said it did not find the chips and Super Micro denied that it introduced the chips during manufacturing.
The secret chip scandal has however caused stocks for all connected companies to plummet—even if it is only conjecture. Super Micro fell 40% following the report. Apple shares edged 1 percent lower in Thursday trading, while Amazon fell about 1.5 percent.
Apple stated about the story:
“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.”
And AWS chimed a similar sentiment: “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.”
The accusation is a lofty one. China’s response to the matter was a simple statement from its foreign ministry: “China is a resolute defender of cybersecurity.”
Is a secret chip really a possibility or is imagination running wild off the back of the trade-war perhaps?
Featured Image: DepositPhotos /© klenger