US Homeland Security statement plays down Bloomberg spy chips claim

Mae Love
October 8, 2018

Apple VP for IT security Goerge Stathakopoulos sent letters to both the US House and Senate Commerce Committees, according to a Reuters report.

The Bloomberg report claimed that the chips, which were the size of a pencil tip and allegedly ended up in server boards used by nearly 30 companies as well as government agencies, compromised entire data centres operated by Amazon and Apple. However, Apple, Supermicro, and AWS have denied the allegations, with Apple publishing an unambiguous statement that completely rejects the notion of malicious chips being found in any servers.

Amazon Web Services said, "At no time, past or present, have we ever found any issues relating to modified hardware or malicious chips in Super Micro motherboards in any Elemental or Amazon systems". But while some of these details may have been wrong, the basic thrust of the story was correct: major tech companies really were participating in a secret NSA spying program called PRISM. But Apple's broadly worded denials-and its decision to continue hammering away at the story days later-seem to rule that out.

"In the end, our internal investigations directly contradict every consequential assertion made in the article-some of which, we note, were based on a single anonymous source", Stathakopoulos wrote.

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Apple and Amazon, two companies identified as victims of the hack, refuted Bloomberg's claims in statements on their websites. Apple and Amazon also provided detailed assessments to authorities to clear up the issue. "Nothing was ever found", he wrote in the letter provided to Reuters.

When the story broke last week, though, the United States intelligence agencies were quiet, but the Department of Homeland Security stepped in over the weekend to say that although the agency is aware of Bloomberg's report, it has "no reason to doubt" the statements made by the two companies.

And it's notable what hasn't happened in the four days since Bloomberg published his story. "I don't know what to believe, but at the same time it doesn't really matter, because it's possible, and we have to act like it is true to solve the problem". A DHS denial certainly adds another twist to this story, though it remains to be seen whether under all the smoke, there was an actual fire.

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