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October 8, 2018

Apple writes letter to U.S. Congress denying reports of Chinese hack

by John_A

Apple’s vice president of information security, George Stathakopoulos,   has denied that the company was hacked by China following news reports of interference in the electronics supply chain of many major U.S. companies. Although Apple bought servers from Super Micro, a company that utilized reportedly compromised hardware in constructing its products, Apple claims that its security tools would have picked up on any malicious manipulation of its systems.

A recent report suggested that members of China’s People’s Liberation Army had compromised the supply chain of major electronics manufacturers, arranging for the insertion of a tiny chip on server boards which were sold to the San Jose, California-based Super Micro Computer. Apple was one of the companies supplied by Super Micro, and was cited in the original news reports as a potential victim of the hardware hack. In his letter to Congress, though, Stathakopoulos staunchly denied the claims.

“Apple’s proprietary security tools are continuously scanning for precisely this kind of outbound traffic, as it indicates the existence of malware or other malicious activity. Nothing was ever found,” he wrote in the letter to both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, quoted by Reuters.

That statement was repeated to the press, and Stathakopoulos claimed that Apple saw no malicious chips or vulnerabilities in its hardware, nor had it been in touch with the FBI to warn about such compromises. Those statements were made by an Apple spokesperson. Great Britain’s Cyber Security Center and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security made follow-up statements indicating that they have no reason to doubt Apple’s assertions.

Despite such denials, Bloomberg, the publication which broke the original story, has stuck by its claims that it believes Apple and as many as 30 other U.S. companies and government organizations were compromised. However, it has been noted that some of Bloomberg’s claims were reliant on a single anonymous source said to be familiar with the matter, so evidence for some claims is not well corroborated.

Apple is not the only company cited in the original reports to deny the hacking claims. Both Amazon and Super Micro Computer have released separate statements denying the hardware interference described in the original Bloomberg article.

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