It is past time for Bloomberg to retract or unequivocally prove the iCloud spy chip story

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 23
Bloomberg had a stunningly important -- and apparently stunningly wrong -- news story about an alleged iCloud spy chip and it's still hoping we'll forget about it. The company has a responsibility to either prove or retract it, and it's a responsibility the publication is still avoiding, now eight months after publication.

Bloomberg Businessweek's image of the alleged spy chip
Bloomberg Businessweek's image of the alleged spy chip


Editor's note, July 23,2019: It has now been eight months since Bloomberg published its iCloud spy chip story. It is important that it not be forgotten, like it appears that the publication wants as there has still yet been no update from the people that Bloomberg allegedly assigned to review details of the story. We have again updated the story with the minor developments since its original publication in the end of November 2018.

Bloomberg continues to ignore emails from AppleInsider regarding the original report, and has yet to say anything about the follow-up actions that the publication is taking in the wake of all the denials from the companies and governmental agencies involved.


Apple, Amazon, the government, national security advisors, and independent technology experts alike have all said Bloomberg Businessweek is wrong about Chinese-made spy chips in iCloud servers. They haven't just said it, they've issued extensively detailed and documented evidence to say this didn't happen and could not happen. Even so, we were willing to give Bloomberg time to prove its story -- but that's over.

The reason we would be willing to believe them is that we do remember Watergate, we do know the saying that there's no smoke without fire. Plus we're pragmatic -- we know that such a security breach is so incalculably damaging to America that these firms would of course deny it all.

Equally, we also know that Bloomberg has a record for publishing incorrect stories about Apple. Those stories included predictions of poor sales of iPads, iPhones, Apple TV and HomePods based on incomplete reporting or ignoring facts that contradicted the idea.

While most of the inaccurate reporting has been financial, it has also questioned business strategy. So the scope of its questionable reporting about Apple is quite broad, yet this spy chip allegation is on another scale altogether.

It's hard to fully comprehend the implications of this allegation. Thirty companies including Apple and Amazon were alleged to have had their hardware infiltrated. They were servers that reportedly used motherboards built by Supermicro and which, according to Bloomberg, had an extra chip, "not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn't part of the boards' original design."

This is supposedly a spy chip which gets access to sensitive code which it then either manipulates or transmits. And, Bloomberg alleges that this chip is embedded secretly in machines in data centers owned by Apple and others. The company has yet to present one, and the picture it uses to illustrate the size of the alleged chip appears to be a mundane directional gate.

A section from one of Apple's datacenters
A section from one of Apple's datacenters


To be clear, Apple, Amazon and all other firms even tangentially mentioned in the piece have refuted the allegations and done so vehemently. Unusually vehemently in the case of Apple, which more often refuses to comment on stories.

Bloomberg Businessweek has responded to the tsunami of criticism by saying that it stands by the story. It hasn't published that on its own site, only a spokesperson has said it to Buzzfeed.

Apart from that comment, all Bloomberg has done publicly since then is follow up the October 4 story with one a few days later claiming further evidence. Otherwise, the publication that brought us this gigantic story has irresponsibly gone silent on it.

The story's writers, Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley are conspicuously silent. Neither has written for Bloomberg since October 9, 2018, about a week after the original piece. Robertson does not appear to have presented Bloomberg's Digital Defense video since then either, but although billed as being a live weekly stream, that show has only aired sporadically.

One source claims that Robertson was due to be a speaker at Bloomberg's "CIO Exchange New York" event on October 30, 2018, but he's not on the show's site or event agenda.

He's also not tweeted at all since October 9.

Michael Riley stopped tweeting on October 5 but his last tweets are revealing. "That's the unique thing about this attack," he says in one. "Although details have been very tightly held, there is physical evidence out there in the world. Now that details are out, it will be hard to keep more from emerging."

@J_J_E_ @karaswisher
That's the unique thing about this attack. Although details have been very tightly held, there is physical evidence out there in the world. Now that details are out, it will be hard to keep more from emerging.

-- Michael Riley (@MichaelRileyDC)
He continues that: "In other words, we're still very early in this process."

However, he also said: "Worth noting that Patrick Gray @riskybusiness now has independent confirmation of the China chips." He links to a tweet that mentioned a new "data point", a new confirming detail, but that tweet was then rapidly removed.

About six hours after Riley retweeted it, Patrick Gray deleted the original tweet and instead posted: "The data point I refer to here was b*******. The source (half) walked it back this morning and I'm f****** furious. I'll be posting a full correction to the site. I was actually actively misled on this one by someone I've known for a long time."

Gray did post a correction to his podcast, then ran a follow-up episode featuring a security expert criticizing Bloomberg. And then a third episode about how "Bloomberg has previously published false, made-up security stories about imaginary things that didn't happen."

Michael Riley did not retweet any of these episodes and Bloomberg has not responded to them. However, Bloomberg's news site did report on December 11, 2018 that Supermicro said an independent test found "absolutely no evidence of malicious hardware on our motherboards".

Writer Nour Al Ali concluded that piece by saying: "Bloomberg Businessweek has previously said that it stands by its story."

Shortly before that piece, though, the Washington Post reported that behind the scenes, Bloomberg journalists were digging into the story further. "In emails to employees at Apple," says the Post, "Bloomberg's Ben Elgin has requested 'discreet' input on the alleged hack."

The Post is owned by Amazon's Jeff Bezos and this reporting is in an Opinion blog by writer Erik Wemple rather than on the news pages. Nonetheless, Wemple claims to have been told that Elgin has said that if hears enough sources refuting Bloomberg's claim, he will "send that message up his chain of command." What that command does, is apparently not up to him.

We can give them one source that's under his nose and that's Bloomberg itself. At the very end of its original October 4 piece, Bloomberg Businessweek wrote that "Bloomberg LP has been a Supermicro customer. According to a Bloomberg LP spokesperson, the company has found no evidence to suggest that it has been affected by the hardware issues raised in the article."

The whole story is based on the word of 17 unnamed people but you'd have thought Bloomberg's own spokesperson could go public. So Bloomberg is being silent while apparently continuing to investigate privately. There's nothing wrong with that -- except that this research should've been done before the first story was published. Huge news stories require time to investigate but if Elgin is still working on this one, he's been fact-checking for four months.

All this time on from its original earthshaking claim, Bloomberg is staying quiet and hoping we'll forget about it. That doesn't sound like a news organization with a fantastic story and it doesn't sound like a responsible news organization either. It's making Bloomberg sound much more like a news organization whose desire for attention overrode its journalism.

Tim Cook
Tim Cook


There is no smoke without fire but right now it doesn't look like there's any smoke. Bloomberg needs to prove it or do what Tim Cook insists and retract it.

Doing neither is damaging. It's obviously damaging for the firms mentioned in the report but it also further dents Bloomberg itself. If it will publish gigantic stories that it can't back up, you cannot trust it on even the smaller stuff.


Keep up with AppleInsider by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.
«13

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 60
    sandorsandor Posts: 557member
    Sadly, this is the world we live in. 

    Disinformation is a daily occurrence, spouting 1/2 truths or blatant lies has no comeuppance. 
    I am convinced part of the reasoning is simply to make money off of publicly traded stocks. 
    MacProwilliamlondonlkrupppbruttochiamac_dogDeelronwatto_cobraairnerdtyler82
  • Reply 2 of 60
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,462member
    sandor said:
    Sadly, this is the world we live in. 

    Disinformation is a daily occurrence, spouting 1/2 truths or blatant lies has no comeuppance. 
    I am convinced part of the reasoning is simply to make money off of publicly traded stocks. 
    Yes, I agree.  Something seems to have altered the entire concept of what constitutes truth these last couple of years.
    williamlondonsandorchiaStrangeDaysDeelronwatto_cobratyler82mwhitedewmeBigDann
  • Reply 3 of 60
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 4,305member
    I think the same way as expressed in the article. If you are going to publish stuff like this you really need something solid to support it.

    On the face of it, it seems there is no evidence to back the claims up. The only thing I would accept as reasonable for the silence would be pressure from government for national security reasons but we would probably not get wind of that for a long time. That would pre-suppose the claims were more or less correct but admitting to them publicly would do more harm than good but that veers too wildly into conspiracy theory for me.
    muthuk_vanalingamcornchip
  • Reply 4 of 60
    Welcome to the club. Now that your ox has been gored, maybe you will listen a bit to people who don't believe that the mass media is accurate or truthful as a whole.
    spinnydjbdragonrazorpit
  • Reply 5 of 60
    The story was probably hatched by Definers
    lkruppwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 60
    sandorsandor Posts: 557member
    MacPro said:
    sandor said:
    Sadly, this is the world we live in. 

    Disinformation is a daily occurrence, spouting 1/2 truths or blatant lies has no comeuppance. 
    I am convinced part of the reasoning is simply to make money off of publicly traded stocks.
    Yes, I agree.  Something seems to have altered the entire concept of what constitutes truth these last couple of years.
    Honestly, i think it has been growing since the 50s/60s in the USA - we've spent 50+ years building a society built on commercialism, where marketing is the first thought for everything from politics & trade to religion & wars.

    Determine the path of least resistance and highest uptake to create a populace that cheers their manipulation-through-ignorance. And all for another dollar.

    The baby boomers & Vietnam were the first to really experience it, and now we have the people born since the mid 90's being the first to be born into it.
    edited November 2018 magman1979watto_cobrapscooter63doctwelve
  • Reply 7 of 60
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,470member
    Alex Lindsay, PixelCorp founder, formerly with LucasFilm and long time co-host of MacBreak weekly, owns one of these servers that was purchased in the exact time frame described by the Bloomberg article. According to his Twitter page he has had engineers examining the server for any signs of the chip allegedly installed by Chinese military personnel. Nothing found yet and precisely no one else has found said chips either, anywhere. No reports at all, from anybody.
    magman1979repressthisradarthekatspinnydDeelronwatto_cobrajony0airnerdjbdragonAppleExposed
  • Reply 8 of 60
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,470member
    muaddib said:
    The story was probably hatched by Definers
    You know, I never put 2+2 together on that idea but now that you mention it I wonder.
    edited November 2018 magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 60
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,470member
    What has happened to Supermicro’s sales since the Bloomberg article? Anybody know?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 60
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,198member
    MacPro said:
    sandor said:
    Sadly, this is the world we live in. 

    Disinformation is a daily occurrence, spouting 1/2 truths or blatant lies has no comeuppance. 
    I am convinced part of the reasoning is simply to make money off of publicly traded stocks. 
    Yes, I agree.  Something seems to have altered the entire concept of what constitutes truth these last couple of years.
    In a world where human interactions are transactional and the end nearly always justifies the means, truth and lies are equally effective and fungible units of currency. The fact that lies were used in this case to purchase a specific item, or article, does not have any residual effect. The money has already been spent for the intended purpose and nobody cares what happened to the soiled bills or how/where they were obtained. The fact that authorities, public leaders, and the population at-large does not hold anyone accountable, including themselves, allows this practice to continue unabated. Welcome to the new reality.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 60
    By no means true of all Bloomberg analysts, their Far Eastern crew is notorious for anti-Chinese slander. I've seen guests on during segments with Rishaad Salamat laugh at him for his "straw man" questions on Chinese economics.  

    Not so incidentally, this kind of crap is why most professional-class economists sneer at twerps like Trump's pet economist, Peter Navarro.

    Truthfulness is a lot more critical to legitimate reporting than pop culture political acceptability. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 60
    thttht Posts: 3,323member
    sandor said:
    MacPro said:
    sandor said:
    Sadly, this is the world we live in. 

    Disinformation is a daily occurrence, spouting 1/2 truths or blatant lies has no comeuppance. 
    I am convinced part of the reasoning is simply to make money off of publicly traded stocks.
    Yes, I agree.  Something seems to have altered the entire concept of what constitutes truth these last couple of years.
    Honestly, i think it has been growing since the 50s/60s in the USA - we've spent 50+ years building a society built on commercialism, where marketing is the first thought for everything from politics & trade to religion & wars.

    Determine the path of least resistance and highest uptake to create a populace that cheers their manipulation-through-ignorance. And all for another dollar.

    The baby boomers & Vietnam were the first to really experience it, and now we have the people born since the mid 90's being the first to be born into it.
    Never assume that we are somehow different than our ancestors.

    The term yellow journalism was invented in the late 1890s or early 1900s to described journalists making up stuff, Hearst et al, being propagandist and outright lying. It won’t be different going back further in time. You can probably find some Greek or Chinese philosopher with a pithy saying about how heralds talked a bunch of shit.

    Perhaps what’s different today is that we can follow the deconstruction of a media story in real-time. The good comes with the bad though, as people will believe whatever bullshit story they want to believe regardless of how stupid it is.
    dewmemuthuk_vanalingamStrangeDayswatto_cobraairnerdAppleExposedrazorpitpscooter63
  • Reply 13 of 60
    Bloomberg, both the organization and the guy who owns it, are full of it.
    spinnydwatto_cobraairnerdAppleExposedcornchipmagman1979
  • Reply 14 of 60
    Welp, gotta add Bloomberg to the list alongside DigiTimes. Sources for whom I immediately assume a story is false unless proven otherwise.
    edited November 2018 SpamSandwichStrangeDaysmagman1979watto_cobraairnerdAppleExposedcornchip
  • Reply 15 of 60
    Senior people at Bloomberg need to address this problem, particularly Michael Bloomberg, who is rumored to have presidential ambitions.  The credibility of Bloomberg news is at stake, not only with readers like the author of the above article but the CEOs of a dozen companies who have been slandered by the article and have vehemently protested.  Lawsuits are likely to follow, as well.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 60
    wisey said:
    Senior people at Bloomberg need to address this problem, particularly Michael Bloomberg, who is rumored to have presidential ambitions.  The credibility of Bloomberg news is at stake, not only with readers like the author of the above article but the CEOs of a dozen companies who have been slandered by the article and have vehemently protested.  Lawsuits are likely to follow, as well.  
    I don’t see a possibility of lawsuits happening, even though the reporting or the source(s) have been proven completely fraudulent.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 60
    Nah!  Sorry!  But, objections and denials are not proof of anything.

    At this point I have to give Bloomberg the benefit of the doubt since they have no reason to lie and every reason not to.
    But, it makes me wonder why ai's head is exploding over this and why they refuse to let it go.   Perhaps it is a lack of understanding of the story -- and that lack of understanding is shown when they say:

    "And, that alleged chip one that Bloomberg claims is embedded secretly in machines in data centers owned by Apple and others."

    "Is embedded":   No, Bloomberg stated that this happened years ago.
    "owned by Apple":  No, the examples sited by Bloomberg are that it happened primarily in Amazon's AWS -- which Apple was using at the time because they didn't have their own capacity to run their emerging iCloud at the time.

    No, despite the objections and denials, I'll stick with Bloomberg -- partly because of independent substantiating evidence that was reported back when it was (
    reportedly) happening.  Did it actually happen?   U.S. intelligence thought that it might and did investigate.  And, to best of my knowledge, never said that it didn't.   But today we have the ramifications of Chinese companies being barred from selling their equipment in the U.S.  -- even as they pass the U.S. by in technology.
  • Reply 18 of 60
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 5,007administrator
    Nah!  Sorry!  But, objections and denials are not proof of anything.

    At this point I have to give Bloomberg the benefit of the doubt since they have no reason to lie and every reason not to.
    But, it makes me wonder why ai's head is exploding over this and why they refuse to let it go.   Perhaps it is a lack of understanding of the story -- and that lack of understanding is shown when they say:

    "And, that alleged chip one that Bloomberg claims is embedded secretly in machines in data centers owned by Apple and others."

    "Is embedded":   No, Bloomberg stated that this happened years ago.
    "owned by Apple":  No, the examples sited by Bloomberg are that it happened primarily in Amazon's AWS -- which Apple was using at the time because they didn't have their own capacity to run their emerging iCloud at the time.

    No, despite the objections and denials, I'll stick with Bloomberg -- partly because of independent substantiating evidence that was reported back when it was (reportedly) happening.  Did it actually happen?   U.S. intelligence thought that it might and did investigate.  And, to best of my knowledge, never said that it didn't.   But today we have the ramifications of Chinese companies being barred from selling their equipment in the U.S.  -- even as they pass the U.S. by in technology.
    We understand the story fine. You might want to read up on the denials by US intelligence and whatnot, though.

    Why are we still on this? This is our beat, after all. Bloomberg's Apple reporting is terrible, and there is no reason to believe that this story is the single beacon of accuracy from them in the last four years.
    edited November 2018 magman1979anomeradarthekatking editor the grateRayz2016StrangeDaysspinnydDeelronwatto_cobraairnerd
  • Reply 19 of 60
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,788member
    avon b7 said:
    I think the same way as expressed in the article. If you are going to publish stuff like this you really need something solid to support it.

    On the face of it, it seems there is no evidence to back the claims up. The only thing I would accept as reasonable for the silence would be pressure from government for national security reasons but we would probably not get wind of that for a long time. That would pre-suppose the claims were more or less correct but admitting to them publicly would do more harm than good but that veers too wildly into conspiracy theory for me.
    Which is why you just tried to plant the seed by making the comment. 
    magman1979StrangeDayswatto_cobratmaypscooter63
  • Reply 20 of 60
    normmnormm Posts: 575member
    Welcome to the club. Now that your ox has been gored, maybe you will listen a bit to people who don't believe that the mass media is accurate or truthful as a whole.
    This is not the mass media, this is a single bad actor, Bloomberg.  This seems to me to be a deliberate anti-Chinese rumor blown up into "news" without any physical evidence.  How could Bloomberg publish an article about spy chips everywhere, without first finding a single spy chip anywhere???  

    Science works by a skeptical and reproducible search for physical evidence; conspiracy-theories advance by ignoring physical evidence and scientific consensus in favor of confirming prejudice.  This is a conspiracy-theory.  There are plenty of mistakes and inaccuracies and laziness in the mainstream media, and even some lying for profit, but there is not a coordinated conspiracy.  I don't understand, for example, how people can believe that all climate scientists and mainstream media are conspiring to invent a fake climate crisis, and only the spokespeople for the coal industry are telling the truth.

    edited November 2018 thtmac_dogradarthekatStrangeDaysDeelrontokyojimuwatto_cobrapscooter63llama
Sign In or Register to comment.