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Amazon and Apple are said to be targets of Chinese espionage. It is said that chips have been placed on the motherboard of certain servers in the data centres of the companies. The claims are denied by the companies, as well as by the manufacturer of the motherboards, Supermicro Computer.

The story about Chinese espionage comes from the generally reliable financial news agency Bloomberg. Based on seventeen anonymous sources, this reports that chips have been placed on Amazon and Apple servers. Three of the sources are senior Apple insiders, two are from Amazon’s cloud division, and there are six U.S. security staff who also report on them.

Spy chips on servers

The research into chips on the servers of American companies is the result of a discovery in 2015. At that time, spy chips were found on the servers of Elemental Technologies, a startup dedicated to video compression. When Amazon took over, the company had sent some of its servers to an unnamed security firm to perform a standard check. When it turned out that there were chips installed, specifically for espionage.

One of the sources states that similar chips have been found in data centers of several other companies. According to the report, this includes almost thirty American companies, including Apple, Amazon, a large bank and public companies. Several variants of the espionage chips would have been found. Some of them are smaller than a pencil point.

The chips would have been placed on the motherboards of Supermicro, which has a number of factories in China. The chips could be used to change the operating systems of those motherboards. For example, information would be transferred to remote servers without the user noticing.

Everyone denies

If the news is right, it’s serious: the US company Supermicro is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of motherboards and manufactures them for all types of devices, including servers from data centers to MRI systems. The message from Bloomberg is of course denied by the companies involved.

Apple states that we can be very clear in this respect: Apple has never found any malware chips, hardware manipulations or vulnerabilities deliberately placed in a server. Amazon also states that no malware chips were found.

This news article was automatically translated from Dutch to give Techzine.eu a head start. All news articles after September 1, 2019 are written in native English and NOT translated. All our background stories are written in native English as well. For more information read our launch article.