Apple CEO Tim Cook calls on Bloomberg to retract its Chinese spy story

“We were very clear with them that this did not happen,” Cook tells BuzzFeed.

(credit: Wikipedia)

Apple CEO Tim Cook is calling on Bloomberg Business to retract a story that said his company was the victim of a hardware-based attack carried out by the Chinese government. It's the first time Apple has ever publicly demanded a retraction, according to BuzzFeed.

Since Bloomberg published the exclusive article 15 days ago, a gaggle of companies, well-placed government officials, and security researchers have publicly challenged its accuracy. Apple and Amazon have said they have no knowledge of ever finding or removing servers that contained the kind of spy chips Bloomberg alleged were found in the companies’ networks. Supermicro has also denied knowing anything about malicious chips being secretly implanted into any of its motherboards during the manufacturing process, as Bloomberg reported.

Meanwhile, an official from the US Department of Homeland Security has said he has no reason to doubt the Apple and Amazon denials, and a top official with the National Security Agency has said the vast resources at his disposal have been unable to confirm the report. As Ars reported last week, hardware experts, including two who were contacted by Bloomberg when reporting the story, said the kind of chip-based backdoors alleged by Bloomberg are extremely complex, particularly when introduced in the supply chain. They said state-sponsored attackers likely would prefer to exploit the numerous firmware vulnerabilities that affect motherboards from Supermicro and other makers.

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In letter to Congress, Apple sends strongest denial over ‘spy chip’ story

Apple has doubled down on its repudiation of Bloomberg’s report last week that claimed its systems had been compromised by Chinese spies. The blockbuster story cited more than a dozen sources claiming that China installed tiny chips on motherboards built by Supermicro, which companies across the U.S. tech industry — including Amazon and Apple — have […]

Apple has doubled down on its repudiation of Bloomberg’s report last week that claimed its systems had been compromised by Chinese spies.

The blockbuster story cited more than a dozen sources claiming that China installed tiny chips on motherboards built by Supermicro, which companies across the U.S. tech industry — including Amazon and Apple — have used to power servers in their datacenters. Bloomberg’s report also claimed that the chip can reportedly compromise data on the server, allowing China to spy on some of the world’s most powerful tech companies.

Now, in a letter to Congress, Apple’s vice president of information security George Stathakopoulos sent the company’s strongest denial to date.

“Apple has never found malicious chips, ‘hardware manipulations’ or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server,” he said. “We never alerted the FBI to any security concerns like those described in the article, nor has the FBI ever contacted us about such an investigation.”

It follows a statement by both the U.K. National Cyber Security Center and U.S. Homeland Security stating that they had “no reason to doubt” statements by Apple, Amazon and Supermicro denying the claims.

Stathakopoulos added that Apple “repeatedly asked them to share specific details about the alleged malicious chips that they seemed certain existed, they were unwilling or unable to provide anything more than vague secondhand accounts.”

Apple’s statement is far stronger than its earlier remarks. A key detail missing in the Bloomberg story is that its many sources, albeit anonymous, provided the reporters with a first hand account of the alleged spy chips.

Without any evidence that the chips exist beyond eyewitness accounts and sources, Bloomberg’s story remains on shaky grounds.