In the world of espionage, anything and everything goes and it seems like the Chinese may be using spy chips in hardware for surveillance. Since everything is manufactured in China, including the laptop I'm typing this story on, it is not far-fetched that the Chinese Government may be secretly installed spy chips in servers of leading companies.
A report by Bloomberg suggests that data centre equipment run by Amazon Web Services and Apple may have been affected by this very practice. The report claims that a tiny microchip was inserted during the manufacturing process. These claims have been strongly refuted by both Apple and Amazon.
According to Bloomberg, these chips have been under investigation since 2015 where it was found these chips steal intellectual property and trade secrets. This practice may have been introduced by a Chinese server company called Super Micro. It is a company in China that assembles marines used in the centres at Apple and Amazon.
All companies in question have disputed this report while Super Micro has denied the introduction of these chips during manufacturing. According to government and corporate sources, Chinese spies have breached at least 30 American companies by compromising the supply chain. Super Micro, is one of the world's biggest supplier of server motherboards, capacitors and fibreglass-mounted chips.
The Chinese Government did not deny this report specifically but said in a statement “China is a resolute defender of cybersecurity. It advocates for the international community to work together on tackling cyber security threats through dialogue on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.”
A blog post by Amazon noted that "there are so many inaccuracies in this article as it relates to Amazon that they're hard to count."
Apple told CNBC "We are deeply disappointed that in their dealings with us, Bloomberg's reporters have not been open to the possibility that they or their sources might be wrong or misinformed. Our best guess is that they are confusing their story with a previously reported 2016 incident in which we discovered an infected driver on a single Super Micro server in one of our labs. That one-time event was determined to be accidental and not a targeted attack against Apple.”
China and its companies have been suspected earlier for spying on American companies to steal intellectual properties. Companies like Huawei, ZTE have also scrutinised in the past for various reasons. We aren't entirely sure whether the report by Bloomberg is accurate or not.