Apple launched investigation into Bloomberg's China hack claims, 'found nothing'

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 5
Apple reportedly launched a wide-reaching internal investigation into an explosive report claiming Chinese spies compromised its servers in what boils down to a complex supply chain hack, but came up empty in its examination.


Graphic illustrating size of supposed Chinese spy chip allegedly embedded in Apple servers. | Source: Bloomberg Businessweek


Citing multiple high-ranking Apple executives who spoke on the matter anonymously, BuzzFeed News reports the company conducted a "massive, granular, and siloed investigation" into claims leveled in a recent Bloomberg Businessweek report. The Bloomberg story, published Thursday, alleges servers used by nearly 30 tech firms including Apple and Amazon were compromised as part of an elaborate Chinese intelligence operation uncovered in 2015.

Not only did Apple's investigation find no evidence of the hardware tampering in question, but it also failed to identify unrelated incidents that could have contributed to Bloomberg's claims, the report said.

"We tried to figure out if there was anything, anything, that transpired that's even remotely close to this," a senior Apple security executive said, according to BuzzFeed News. "We found nothing."

A security engineer involved in the investigation said they had never seen a microchip resembling the component described in the Bloomberg report.

Thursday's story claimed Chinese operatives managed to sneak a microchip the size of a grain of rice onto motherboards produced by Supermicro, which supplied the parts for use in Apple's iCloud data centers. The chip, supposedly designed by the Chinese military, was said to act as a "stealth doorway onto any network" and offered "long-term stealth access" to attached computer systems.

"I don't know if something like this even exists," the unnamed Apple engineer said. The person went on to note that Bloomberg did not produce material for Apple to examine in efforts to corroborate the report. "We were given nothing. No hardware. No chips. No emails."

Another Apple executive, a senior member of the company's legal team, said it had not been in contact with government agencies purportedly investigating the matter. Bloomberg in its report claims Apple informed the FBI of "suspicious chips" found in Supermicro servers around May 2015 after "detecting odd network activity and firmware problems."

The executive reiterated Apple's public statement on the matter, saying the company is not bound by a confidentiality agreement or gag order.

Apple appears to have exhausted all avenues in its investigation, and sources told BuzzFeed News the company believes there is little else it can do at this juncture.

Just hours after the Bloomberg report was published, both Apple and Amazon issued strongly worded statements refuting the claims in no uncertain terms. As BuzzFeed News points out, the denial is unlike anything Apple has distributed, including a precisely worded counter to claims that it participated in the U.S. government's PRISM surveillance program in 2013. The company uses broad language to categorically deny all assertions in Bloomberg's story, and offers point-by-point rebuttal to certain facts and figures.

Amazon's response struck a similar tone.

For its part, Bloomberg is standing by its investigation, saying the report took more than a year to compile and involved more than 100 interviews. The publication cites 17 sources from government agencies and companies involved in the alleged hack, including senior insiders at Apple.

With both sides refusing to stand down the issue has become a matter of "he said, she said." It is unclear how, or even if, the allegations can be disproven, as Bloomberg has yet to produce conclusive evidence of the scheme beyond information from anonymous sources.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 43
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,912member
    So Bloomberg makes an unsubstantiated claim, Apple's stock and reputation falls, yet Bloomberg gets away for free. Elon Musk makes a simple comment that costs him $20M. Why?????
    cornchipLukeCageJFC_PArepressthisJWSCjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 43
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,097member
    rob53 said:
    So Bloomberg makes an unsubstantiated claim, Apple's stock and reputation falls, yet Bloomberg gets away for free. Elon Musk makes a simple comment that costs him $20M. Why?????

    as well as board position right? 

    still, rather speedy conclusion no?

    Edit -- also: 



    That thing is TINY.

    Edit -- then my next question is, any response from Amazon et al? guess I'll ddg it.

    ... guess I could read to the end of the article.... I'll show myself out now....


    edited October 5 repressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 43
    He said, Xi said.
    SpamSandwichcornchipchasmrepressthislarryammatzgrifmxJWSCStrangeDaysstompy
  • Reply 4 of 43
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,870member
    Perhaps one of the reasons Apple and other companies based in China or heavily dependent on China for their business are getting their stock smashed today relate to this very troubling news coming out of China now:

    https://www.wsj.com/amp/articles/china-expands-its-cybersecurity-rulebook-heightening-foreign-corporate-concerns-1538741732

    What if Apple is put in a position of having to extricate all of their manufacturing and assembly work from China? Apple is holding a very weak hand right now.
    edited October 5
  • Reply 5 of 43
    lennlenn Posts: 3member
    I don't trust either side on this issue. There is no honest news reporting today and Apple, Amazon, Google, ect are all bending over backwards for the Chinese government to chase the almighty dollar.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 6 of 43
    lenn said:
    I don't trust either side on this issue. There is no honest news reporting today and Apple, Amazon, Google, ect are all bending over backwards for the Chinese government to chase the almighty dollar.
    The notion that Apple is willing to have their servers spied on is just ridiculous. You’re most likely right about no honest news though. It’s all about clickbait and controversies and agenda at this point. 
    edited October 5 mwhitecharlesgresirelandolsStrangeDaysclaire1watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 43
    CiprolCiprol Posts: 14member
    Another politically motivated 'WMD' story through the media. How much more sinister and devious can the political elites get? Remembering Bolton was also in the administration that fanned up that WMD story. Shameful!
    edited October 5 irelandwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 43
    mac_dogmac_dog Posts: 580member
    Breitberg...or...Bloombart? I just can’t decide. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 43
    chasmchasm Posts: 832member
    Reminder: Apple and Amazon are legally bound to only issue truthful statements on all official communications.

    Bloomberg is under no such rule, and will never offer any proof of their allegations.

    It's not rocket science who's more credible in this case.
    JFC_PAmwhitepropoddinooneolswilliamlondonlkruppJWSCStrangeDaysradarthekat
  • Reply 10 of 43
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 198member
    At some point does such damaging reporting about such a specific thing become actionable in court?
    mwhiteirelandolsgrifmxwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 43
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,162member

    Thursday's story claimed Chinese operatives managed to sneak a microchip the size of a grain of rice onto motherboards produced by Supermicro, which supplied the parts for use in Apple's iCloud data centers. The chip, supposedly designed by the Chinese military, was said to act as a "stealth doorway onto any network" and offered "long-term stealth access" to attached computer systems. 

    A chip the size of a grain of rice that can access any network without being detected.

    This is beginning to sound more and more like some of Dan Brown's earlier works.

    I'm afraid Bloomberg's going to have to do much better than a few anonymous sources now. We need to see some solid evidence. Have they got any more details of this alleged chip? If the Chinese military really does have such a device then we should be stealing their IP.
    edited October 6 williamlondonStrangeDaysradarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 43
    flydogflydog Posts: 100member
    rob53 said:
    So Bloomberg makes an unsubstantiated claim, Apple's stock and reputation falls, yet Bloomberg gets away for free. Elon Musk makes a simple comment that costs him $20M. Why?????
    Because lying to the general public to sell magazines is not the same as lying to shareholders to pump up the price of your stock.  Unless the Bloomberg article is libel (a high standard), it is protected free speech.  Fraud (lying to stockholders to pump up your stock price) is not protected speech.
    edited October 6 StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 43
    flydogflydog Posts: 100member

    JFC_PA said:
    At some point does such damaging reporting about such a specific thing become actionable in court?
    When the statement is false, the statement cause damages, and the person who made the statement knew it was false.  Applying this to Bloomberg, it is unlikely that it would be held liable because there are no damages and the article writer relied on people who represented to the writer that the facts were true. 
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 14 of 43
    chickchick Posts: 33member
    When I started reading Bloomberg's article, I went wow. By the the time I finished it, my thoughts were that this is somebody's disinformation campaign (based on maybe a grain of truth) . Motive? I can think of several - all not good. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 43
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,552member
    Only Apple and others affected by Chinese spying know the truth. Chinese government initiated industrial espionage is going on for a long time. So much in trade secret is stolen from American and European companies,Research labs,etc that never got caught. Just didn't come to the front in news and openly discussed in public until recently.
  • Reply 16 of 43
    Shortsellers are enriching on these news, so there's no Commission at sight...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 43
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,258member
    rob53 said:
    So Bloomberg makes an unsubstantiated claim, Apple's stock and reputation falls, yet Bloomberg gets away for free. Elon Musk makes a simple comment that costs him $20M. Why?????
    Would it have substantially affected Apple's reputation had it been true? Not in my opinion. According to the article Apple caught it early on and that would be a good thing, something to be commended for.  It was a relatively minor issue as far as Apple would have been concerned in the storyline. A molehole. 

    As of last evening I was nearly 100% on Apple's side with this, especially after Bruce Sewell, Apple's retired legal officer, said he knew nothing about it either and he's the one even more likely than Cook to have been advised if there was a national security investigation in place. Reportedly executive management and CEO's tend to be kept in the dark for plausible deniability reasons. But after reading this just now I'm a little less firmly in Apple's camp. "The lady doth protest too much, methinks" comes to mind.

    Apple has had claims made against it before that could have impacted their reputation far more than this one, child labor in China, Apple security teams searching peoples houses, and cooperation with Prism are three off the top of my head, and they've never gone to this extent to broadcast over and over how innocent they are. Went to bed last night with it looking to me like Bloomberg got bad info and then wake up to yet more Apple protests and denials? This is getting weirder rather than clearer, morphing from that molehill into a mountain.
    edited October 6
  • Reply 18 of 43
    Ciprol said:
    Another politically motivated 'WMD' story through the media. How much more sinister and devious can the political elites get? Remembering Bolton was also in the administration that fanned up that WMD story. Shameful!
    So you mean Bloomberg is on the Trump side to wage trade war toward China since a year ago?
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 19 of 43
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,678member
    Until we see a neutral third party researcher provided with physical evidence on which to perform a forensic investigation this will continue to spin into absurdity. The grain of rice claims are almost comical. Sure, with sufficient design accommodations put in place beforehand by a board designer it would be possible to provide an out-of-band egress port for data siphoning. That requires a lot of up-front planning, coordination, and infrastructure. Or they could simply use one of the out-of-band remote management models already in place in some of Intel's chips, i.e., vPro AMT. The real question is why go to such great lengths to capture such low level details from individual machines when a wealth of much richer and contextualized information is already aggregated into easier to acquire forms by data hoarders like Google and Facebook?  The grain of rice theory sounds like way too much effort for way too little value. 
    SpamSandwichStrangeDaysviclauyycradarthekat
  • Reply 20 of 43
    eideardeideard Posts: 351member
    Same rule that applies to any geek: if you can't demonstrate the hack, it's nothing more than bullshit wishful thinking. 
    lkruppStrangeDaysradarthekat
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