Security researcher named in China spy chip story voices doubts
Security researcher named in China spy chip story voices doubts
EnlargeEric Kilby Flickr
11 October, 2018, 12:37
The data centers of roughly 30 US companies, as well as some USA government contractors, were said to have been affected.
A major United States telecommunications company discovered manipulated hardware from Supermicro in its network and removed it in August, fresh evidence of tampering in China of critical technology components bound for the United States, according to a security expert working for the telecom company.
Reports of manufacturing shenanigans have continued this week with Sepio Systems' co-CEO, Yossi Appleboum, providing further proof of hacked motherboards used in servers, this time at an unnamed USA telecommunications company.
He said that unusual communications from a Supermicro server and a subsequent physical inspection revealed an implant built into the server's Ethernet connector, a component that's used to attach network cables to the computer.
On the possible failure of adequate fact checking, earlier this week one of the security experts that Bloomberg spoke to in order to explain how the claimed spy chip would actually work, Joe Fitzpatrick, gave an interview to Aussie veteran infosec journalist Patrick Gray in which Fitzpatrick said he had told the Bloomberg spy-chip reporters of his doubts that it was feasible and that he was "uncomfortable" with the final article.
Investor response to the outlet's claims has been strong: On publication of the original story Supermicro's stock dropped 41 percent, with a further 27 percent loss following this latest report. "That's the problem with the Chinese supply chain", he said.
"The security of our customers and the integrity of our products are core to our business and our company values", said a representative for Supermicro in an emailed statement. "We take care to secure the integrity of our products throughout the manufacturing process and follow rigorous industry quality and security standards".
"We still have no knowledge of any unauthorized components and have not been informed by any customer that such components have been found", Supermicro said. "We are dismayed that Bloomberg would give us only limited information, no documentation, and half a day to respond to these new allegations".
While targeted companies have been quick to refute the hack, U.S. officials are not discarding it outright and did not comment on the goings-on. Read all the detail at Bloomberg here.
While supply-chain threats emanating from China are certainly a concern, Joyce said, "what I can't find are any ties to the claims that are in the article". Supermicro, according to last week's Bloomberg report, is the hardware manufacturer whose motherboards were modified in the factory to include a tiny microchip that caused attached servers to come under the control of a previously unreported division of China's People's Liberation Army.
"It would be wonderful for China if it could integrate internal storage, a CPU and wireless communications in such a tiny chip", said Zhang Baichuan, founder of cybersecurity website youxia.org. "The fact is, China's chip technology is still at a primary stage".
Bloomberg News has received information from security research firm, Sepio Systems, that a prominent U.S. telecom has also fallen to the Chinese supply chain attack, adding another notch to the People Liberation Army's (PLA) belt.
Apple has, however, issued a very strong denial, which has been backed up by reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, casting doubt on Bloomberg's claims.
On Monday, Apple execs sent a letter to the House and Senate commerce committees urging lawmakers to pressure Supermicro to brief them about the alleged breach.
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