Bloomberg responds to Apple’s denials with fresh evidence of pervasive hardware hacking

Bloomberg finds more proof of hacked Supermicro hardware

Based on his inspection of the device, Appleboum determined that the telecom company's server was modified at the factory where it was manufactured.

Bloomberg's report claimed that China's People's Liberation Army installed microchips the size of a grain of rice onto servers used by massive corporations in the USA - including both Apple and Amazon.

The security expert, Yossi Appleboum, provided documents, analysis and other evidence of the discovery following the publication of an investigative report in Bloomberg Businessweek that detailed how China's intelligence services had ordered subcontractors to plant malicious chips in Supermicro server motherboards over a two-year period ending in 2015.

Supermicro has once again denied any knowledge of such a compromise. Apple and Amazon said they had found no evidence to corroborate the report.

"It would be unbelievable for China if it could integrate internal storage, a CPU and wireless communications in such a tiny chip", Zhang Baichuan, a Chinese cybersecurity expert, told SCMP, adding, "The fact is, China's chip technology is still at a primary stage".

Appleboum said he has contacts in the USA intelligence community who pinpointed the origin of the compromised computer components as Guangzhou, the port city often hailed as the "Silicon Valley" of China.

In other words, Bloomberg - seemingly surprised by the forceful denials of its story - is arguing that only a small group of people were aware of the investigations it wrote about and so claims of inaccuracy may come from people who simply do not know about them.

Joyce appealed to anyone with knowledge of the alleged hardware tampering to contact officials in the NSA, DHS, or Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Besides the denials, critics have also complained that last week's article was based exclusively on anonymous sources who couldn't be adequately scrutinized.

Bloomberg's original article on Chinese tampering was heavily criticized for relying on anonymous sourcing.

The new story pointing to an Ethernet hack is clearly meant to act as support for the original story but since the details are so different, and given that the entire report is single-sourced, it has had the opposite effect among security experts who have started to doubt the credibility of the original story.

"Sure this story has one named source but it technically makes even less sense than the first one", Cris Thomas, a security expert who tweets under the handle SpaceRogue, wrote. "Calling BS on this one as well". China's embassy in Washington did not return a request for comment Monday.

That expert opinion is however contradicted by other security experts who have noted that such an attack is theoretically possible, albeit very hard to pull off.

"There are technical issues with both stories, but I think both are plausible", Jake Williams, a former NSA hacker who is now founder of Rendition Security, tweeted. "If you're monitoring on the network, you have a chance to see this, otherwise nothing". If not, it has sent the world down a risky and resource-consuming rabbit hole. The difficulty critics have is that there's no logical way to prove a negative. Neither adage proves nor disproves the claims of a highly sophisticated supply-chain attack infiltrating the world's most powerful organizations.

That latest piece comes after one of the experts in the original story gave an interview in which he expressed his concern about the finished piece and questioned whether Bloomberg had done sufficient fact checking before publishing.

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