United Kingdom cyber security agency backs Apple, Amazon China hack denials

Circuit Board

Circuit Board

The company also noted that the story was based on 17 anonymous sources, with some allegations based on even fewer unnamed sources.

These servers were apparently purchased by Apple, Amazon and around 30 other companies, and also used by the USA and United Kingdom government - which could have given Beijing unprecedented access to corporate and state secrets.

The Bloomberg story, which cites 17 unnamed sources including three at Apple and four United States officials, claimed that the microchips were placed onto motherboards in Chinese factories subsequently assembled into servers by Supermicro. That's a narrower denial than the ones Apple and Amazon put out last week, but it still seems to bolster the companies' claims. Amazon says it is "untrue" that it knew of "servers containing malicious chips or modifications in data centres based in China", or that it "worked with the FBI to investigate or provide data about malicious hardware".

Apple said in a statement it had "never found malicious chips, "hardware manipulations" or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server". "Apple never had any contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other agency about such an incident".

DHS is backing them up.

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In a statement, the DHS said: "Like our partners in the United Kingdom, the National Cyber Security Centre, at this time we have no reason to doubt the statements from the companies named in the story".

Tech giant Apple re-emphasized over the weekend that its systems have not been compromised by Chinese hackers, despite a news report last week detailing a serious supply chain breach.

The Department of Homeland Security's statement follows a very similar conclusion reached by the U.K.'s National Cyber Security Center.

The iPhone maker's recently retired general counsel, Bruce Sewell, also told Reuters he called the FBI's then-general counsel, James Baker, a year ago after being told by Bloomberg of an open investigation into Super Micro Computer, the hardware maker whose products have allegedly been implanted with malicious Chinese chips. "He said, 'I've never heard of this, but give me 24 hours to make sure.' He called me back 24 hours later and said 'Nobody here knows what this story is about'".

According to Bloomberg's original report, microchips the size of a sharpened pencil tip (see image at the top of this article) were embedded on motherboards built by Taiwan-American firm Supermicro. "Nothing was ever found", he wrote in the letter provided to Reuters.

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