China used tiny chip to hack US tech companies

The Grind

In what is likely one of the largest hacking attempts ever, China has been caught hiding microchips inside equipment used by top American tech companies.

According to a Bloomberg Business week report, the chips were discovered in equipment that was sent to 30 American companies, including Apple and Amazon.

The chips, which were “not much bigger than a grain of rice,” were found nested on servers’ motherboards.

“Amazon reported the discovery to US authorities, sending a shudder through the intelligence community,” writes Bloomberg. “During the ensuing top-secret probe, which remains open more than three years later, investigators determined that the chips allowed the attackers to create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines.”

According to officials, the chips were inserted during the manufacturing process at factories run by subcontractors in China.

The Details

The attack has been confirmed by 17 people – all of which have been granted anonymity in the press due to the sensitive nature of the investigation.

Supermicro (the company suspected of shipping the hardware with the hidden chips) said it was unaware of the investigation. Apple and Amazon insist their systems were not compromised.

“Apple has never found malicious chips, ‘hardware manipulations,’ or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server,” wrote Apple.

The Bloomberg report comes amid warnings from top US cybersecurity officials that China has increased its hacking activity in response to the Trump Administration’s tariffs on Beijing.

Last month, Trump accused China of trying to meddle in the upcoming midterm elections.

Meanwhile, officials estimate China’s “hacker army” to be at least 50,000 strong (possible 100,000). Last year, exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui said there were at least 25,000 Chinese spies in the US, many of which are American recruits.