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United Kingdom cyber security agency backs Apple, Amazon China hack denials

09 October 2018

A Chinese government spokesman has sidestepped questions about a report that its spies inserted chips into computer equipment that might allow them to hack into USA companies and government agencies. The Cupertino-based tech giant sent a letter, dated October 8, to four members of Congress explicitly denying a report from Bloomberg Businessweek. This is what had been alleged in a recent article by Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

"Apple has never found malicious chips, "hardware manipulations" or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server", the company says, noting that it has never been in contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other US government agency about the incident that is alleged in the Bloomberg report.

In writing directly to four members of Congress, Apple took it a step further. That Businessweek chose to run a story accusing the country of espionage may be a reaction to those accusations, or it may speak to how solid its editors felt about the reporting. One notable example of which occurred in 2013, when following revelations made by Edward Snowden the company insisted that it did not provide the US government "with direct access to [its] servers".

Maybe the most important thing to remember here is not the strict truth of what happened, but that the story resonates because - not to be a conspiracy theorist - it is eminently plausible. Come to that, it wouldn't be implausible for the U.S.to do it right back to other countries in the scope of our increasing tenuous global relationships, except that we don't really make anything here that we can ship overseas and use as ears, especially not tech that is integral to the foundations of society.

Apple has also told the Congress on Sunday that its servers were not compromised in anyway whatsoever.

Network security expert Peiter Zatko - better known as Mudge - says via Twitter that it's likely that the Bloomberg report "echoes an actual story" but doesn't get all of the details correct. The statement adds that DHS has no reason "at this time" not to believe the statements from companies like Apple, Amazon and Supermicro denying the existence of the tiny spy chips. A number of companies, including Apple, issued carefully worded denials.

Stathakopoulos repeated Apple's statements to the press that it never found malicious chips or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server or been contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about such concerns.

The truth might never be settled in this case, and surely we are all spying on each other regardless of whether it's accomplished domestically, internationally, interpersonally, or technologically. "You should know that Bloomberg provided us with no evidence to substantiate their claims and our internal investigations concluded their claims were simply wrong". Unfortunately, we don't yet know.

United Kingdom cyber security agency backs Apple, Amazon China hack denials