The Chinese military managed to install and disguise tiny chips on computing hardware destined for USA military and intelligence agencies, as well as companies such as Apple (aapl), according to a Bloomberg Businessweek report about a quiet but long-running investigation in the U.S.
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a written request for comment on Thursday.
The extent of the data China collected from the surveillance chips was not clear from the report, and no consumer information was known to have been stolen, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
Apple for its part has already issued a statement strongly refuting all the claims made by Bloomberg in their report.
Citing 17 anonymous sources, the news outlet on Thursday reported that People's Liberation Army operatives managed to add tiny, nefarious microchips to server motherboards manufactured by Super Micro. In addition to large U.S. companies, the motherboards also were used by Defense Department data centers and Central Intelligence Agency drone operations.
You can read the full report at Bloomberg.
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While the news agency says Apple and Amazon found the chips in servers as long ago as 2015, the two corporate giants deny the claim that the presence of the chips was anything more than a manufacturing mistake. Bloomberg claims Amazon discovered them ahead of its 2015 acquisition of Elemental Systems and reported the chips to the Federal Bureau of Investigation before removing them all within a one-month period.
Supermicro rep Perry Hayes wrote: "We remain unaware of any such investigation". The report alleges that the tiny chips, disguised to look like other components or even sandwiched into the fiberglass of the motherboards themselves, were connected to the management processor, giving them far-reaching access to both networking and system memory.
The report also quoted denial of the reporting by Amazon Web Services, a cloud-services subsidiary of Amazon, which in 2015 acquired a company, Elemental, whose servers reportedly were affected by the Chinese operation.
Amazon subsidiary Amazon Web Services, which provides on-demand cloud computing platforms, was described in the Bloomberg story as having known about the malicious chips and working with the FBI to investigate the matter. In a statement to CNBC, Apple said it found a single infected driver on one Super Micro server in a lab, calling it a one-time event. The report has been deemed not accurate by companies named in it as well as by the Chinese government.
Bloomberg, however, states that six current and former national security officials have detailed discovering such chips and the investigation that followed. It was this incident which may have led to the severed business relationship back in 2016, rather than the discovery of malicious chips or a widespread supply chain attack.