from the our-fortune-looks-bleak dept.
Following up on our story from Thursday — Chinese Spy Chips Allegedly Inserted Into Amazon, Apple, etc. Datacenters by Super Micro — there is a report from Ars Technica Bloomberg stands by Chinese chip story as Apple, Amazon ratchet up denials:
On Thursday morning, Bloomberg published a bombshell story claiming that the Chinese government had used tiny microchips to infiltrate the data centers of Apple and Amazon. Apple and Amazon, for their part, responded with unusually specific and categorical denials. It's clear that someone is making a big mistake, but 24 hours later, it's still not clear whether it's Bloomberg or the technology companies.
On Thursday afternoon, Apple laid out its case against the story in a lengthy post on its website. The post specifically disputed a number of Bloomberg's claims. For example, Bloomberg says that after discovering a mysterious chip in one of its servers, Apple "reported the incident to the FBI," leading to an investigation. Apple flatly denies that this occurred.
"No one from Apple ever reached out to the FBI about anything like this," Apple writes. "We have never heard from the FBI about an investigation of this kind."
Amazon's response has been equally emphatic and detailed. "There are so many inaccuracies in this article as it relates to Amazon that they're hard to count," Amazon wrote on Thursday. "We never found modified hardware or malicious chips in servers in any of our data centers."
Yet Bloomberg reporter Jordan Robertson, one of the article's co-authors, has stood by his story. In a Thursday afternoon appearance on Bloomberg TV, Robertson said that he talked to 17 anonymous sources—both in US intelligence agencies and at affected companies—who confirmed the story.
So what's going on? It's clear that someone isn't telling the truth, but it's hard to tell what the real story is.
A comment to that story on Ars noted:
The (alleged) chip is associated with the BMC (baseboard management controller). It has indirect access to everything that the BMC can touch, which is pretty much everything in the system.
See, also, coverage on Hackaday where a comment identifies the particular board in question as being a MicroBlade MBI-6128R-T2. A link to a tweet reveals a picture of the board in question and a followup picture showing where the extra device would be located.
The chips, which Bloomberg said have been the subject of a top secret U.S. government investigation starting in 2015, were used for gathering intellectual property and trade secrets from American companies and may have been introduced by a Chinese server company called Super Micro that assembled machines used in the centers.
[...] China has long been suspected — but rarely directly implicated — in en masse spy campaigns based on hardware made there. The majority of electronic components used in U.S. technology are manufactured in China. Companies including component manufacturers Huawei and ZTE, as well as surveillance camera maker Hikvision, have all fallen under intense suspicion and scrutiny from the U.S. government in the past year.
I'd think that the big guys would be designing their own boards. Maybe we should only buy PCBs from South Korea.
In a letter to customers issued December 11, Supermicro President and CEO Charles Liang and other top executives announced that an audit conducted by an outside investigating team had found no evidence of any malicious hardware incorporated into motherboards currently or previously manufactured by the company. The letter is the latest rebuttal to Bloomberg reports in October that claimed tiny chips that provided a backdoor for China's intelligence agencies had been integrated into boards provided to major Internet and cloud providers—a report also refuted by the companies the report claimed were targeted.
"After a thorough examination and a range of functional tests, the investigative firm found absolutely no evidence of malicious hardware on our motherboards," the letter signed by Liang, Supermicro Senior Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer David Weigland, and Senior VP and Chief Product Officer Raju Penumatcha stated.
Searching for site:soylentnews.org supermicro on Google brought up a Supermicro ad linking the CEO letter, with the link entitled "Supermicro Independent Testing | No Malicious Hardware". Do you believe them?
Previously: Chinese Spy Chips Allegedly Inserted Into Amazon, Apple, etc. Datacenters by Super Micro
Bloomberg Stands by Chinese Chip Story as Apple, Amazon Ratchet up Denials
Bloomberg Claims That a Major U.S. Telecom Operated a Server Backdoored by a Hidden Chip
Related: Apple Deleted Server Supplier After Finding Infected Firmware in Servers
Firmware Vulnerabilities in Supermicro Systems
Supermicro Announces Suspension of Trading of Common Stock on Nasdaq and its Intention to Appeal
Five days after Bloomberg stunned the world with still-unconfirmed allegations that Chinese spies embedded data-sniffing chips in hardware used by Apple, Amazon, and dozens of other companies, the news organization is doubling down. Bloomberg is now reporting that a different factory-seeded manipulation from the previously described one was discovered in August inside the network of a major US telecommunications company.
Bloomberg didn't name the company, citing a non-disclosure agreement between the unnamed telecom and the security firm it hired to scan its data centers. AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile all told Ars they weren't the telecom mentioned in the Bloomberg post. Verizon and CenturyLink also denied finding backdoored Supermicro hardware in their datacenters, Motherboard reported.
Tuesday's report cites documents, analysis, and other evidence provided by Yossi Appleboum, who is co-CEO of a hardware security firm called Sepio Systems. Bloomberg said that, while Sepio was scanning servers belonging to the unnamed telecom, the firm detected unusual communications from a server designed by Supermicro. Supermicro, according to last week's Bloomberg report, is the hardware manufacturer whose motherboards were modified in the factory to include a tiny microchip that caused attached servers to come under the control of a previously unreported division of China's People's Liberation Army. Supermicro told Bloomberg it had no knowledge of the implant, marking the second time the hardware maker has denied knowing anything about the reported manipulations.
[...] The criticism was still at full pitch on Tuesday morning when Bloomberg published its follow-up article. While it names a single source, some security experts quickly challenged the credibility of the report. "Sure this story has one named source but it technically makes even less sense than the first one," Cris Thomas, a security expert who tweets under the handle SpaceRogue, wrote. "Come on @Bloomberg get somebody who knows what they're talking about to write these stories. Calling BS on this one as well."