Espionage involving China

Discussion in 'Strategic Defense' started by kroko, Jun 1, 2012.

  1. AndrewS
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    AndrewS Senior Member
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    Front cover of Bloomberg Businessweek

    [​IMG]


    It's interesting how this supposedly happened in 2014.

    It was just after the Snowden revelations about how the NSA had compromised the Chinese internet backbone by intercepting routers sent by Cisco.


     
    #251 AndrewS, Oct 4, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
  2. Hendrik_2000
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    Hendrik_2000 Brigadier

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    Apple denied it
    Apple strongly denies bombshell report that Chinese spies were able to secretly implant chips in its servers (AAPL)
    Kif Leswing,Business Insider 6 hours ago

    • Chinese spies were able to add small, undocumented chips to motherboards in data servers bought by big US tech companies, according to a blockbuster investigation by Bloomberg published Thursday.
    • Apple denies that it has ever found malicious chips in its servers.
    • Apple also denies that it is under a national security "gag order," undercutting speculation that it was under pressure from the government to deny the Bloomberg report.
    On Thursday, Bloomberg published a blockbuster investigation that found that Chinese spies were able to plant tiny microchips on motherboards in data servers supplied by SuperMicro to a slew of American tech companies, including Apple.

    The goal of the Chinese spies was reportedly to use these microchips to gain access to sensitive corporate data and other secrets through advanced hacking, according to Bloomberg

    Apple is denying just about every fact in the Bloomberg report, which says it discovered suspicious chips in its servers in 2015.

    In a statement released on Thursday afternoon Apple says that the company has never found any "malicious chips" or vulnerabilities in "any server" and completely denies having any contact with the "FBI or any other agency about such an incident" — directly refuting several key claims in the report.

    "Despite numerous discussions across multiple teams and organizations, no one at Apple has ever heard of this investigation," according to Apple's updated statement on Thursday, which said it was first contacted by Bloomberg's reporters about the alleged FBI investigation in November 2017.

    It's a pretty unequivocal denial. However, there was speculation after the original report and denial was released on Thursday that Apple could be under a gag order — a possible way to reconcile Bloomberg's reporting with Apple's denial.

    Certain federal investigations dealing with espionage and national security can issue such orders, which preclude the recipient from even discussing the existence of the order. The most common version is called a "national security letter."

    But Apple is denying that too, in an updated statement issued later on Thursday, that it is under any gag order:

    "Finally, in response to questions we have received from other news organizations since Businessweek published its story, we are not under any kind of gag order or other confidentiality obligations."

    It's a difficult situation to reconcile. Bloomberg is a reputable news outlet with a history of breaking big stories, and has revealed conspiracies of this size and scope in the past. In a statement to Business Insider earlier on Thursday, Bloomberg said that it stood by its reporting, which cited 18 unnamed sources.

    But Apple — and other companies involved, including Amazon — have all made strongly worded statements completely denying the facts reported by Bloomberg. For its part, Amazon said that it's "hard to count" the inaccuracies in the Bloomberg story.

    Given that these companies are publicly traded and this kind of information is clearly material to its stock price, any falsehoods in statements like these could land it in trouble with federal authorities.

    Of note: In 2017, Apple acknowledged downloading infected firmware that was related to servers manufactured by SuperMicro.

    So it's a difficult situation to clearly parse and understand at the moment — perhaps not surprising, given that the story involves some of the most shadowy realms in the world, touching both American and Chinese spies, high-tech manufacturing, and hacking.

    Read the Bloomberg report here>>
    Apple's full statement is reproduced below:
    The October 8, 2018 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek incorrectly reports that Apple found “malicious chips” in servers on its network in 2015. As Apple has repeatedly explained to Bloomberg reporters and editors over the past 12 months, there is no truth to these claims.

    Apple provided Bloomberg Businessweek with the following statement before their story was published:

    Over the course of the past year, Bloomberg has contacted us multiple times with claims, sometimes vague and sometimes elaborate, of an alleged security incident at Apple. Each time, we have conducted rigorous internal investigations based on their inquiries and each time we have found absolutely no evidence to support any of them. We have repeatedly and consistently offered factual responses, on the record, refuting virtually every aspect of Bloomberg’s story relating to Apple.

    On this we can be very clear: Apple has never found malicious chips, “hardware manipulations” or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server. Apple never had any contact with the FBI or any other agency about such an incident. We are not aware of any investigation by the FBI, nor are our contacts in law enforcement.

    In response to Bloomberg’s latest version of the narrative, we present the following facts: Siri and Topsy never shared servers; Siri has never been deployed on servers sold to us by Super Micro; and Topsy data was limited to approximately 2,000 Super Micro servers, not 7,000. None of those servers have ever been found to hold malicious chips.

    As a matter of practice, before servers are put into production at Apple they are inspected for security vulnerabilities and we update all firmware and software with the latest protections. We did not uncover any unusual vulnerabilities in the servers we purchased from Super Micro when we updated the firmware and software according to our standard procedures.

    We are deeply disappointed that in their dealings with us, Bloomberg’s reporters have not been open to the possibility that they or their sources might be wrong or misinformed. Our best guess is that they are confusing their story with a previously-reported 2016 incident in which we discovered an infected driver on a single Super Micro server in one of our labs. That one-time event was determined to be accidental and not a targeted attack against Apple.

    While there has been no claim that customer data was involved, we take these allegations seriously and we want users to know that we do everything possible to safeguard the personal information they entrust to us. We also want them to know that what Bloomberg is reporting about Apple is inaccurate.

    Apple has always believed in being transparent about the ways we handle and protect data. If there were ever such an event as Bloomberg News has claimed, we would be forthcoming about it and we would work closely with law enforcement. Apple engineers conduct regular and rigorous security screenings to ensure that our systems are safe. We know that security is an endless race and that’s why we constantly fortify our systems against increasingly sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals who want to steal our data.

    The published Businessweek story also claims that Apple “reported the incident to the FBI but kept details about what it had detected tightly held, even internally.” In November 2017, after we had first been presented with this allegation, we provided the following information to Bloomberg as part of a lengthy and detailed, on-the-record response. It first addresses their reporters’ unsubstantiated claims about a supposed internal investigation:

    Despite numerous discussions across multiple teams and organizations, no one at Apple has ever heard of this investigation. Businessweek has refused to provide us with any information to track down the supposed proceedings or findings. Nor have they demonstrated any understanding of the standard procedures which were supposedly circumvented.

    No one from Apple ever reached out to the FBI about anything like this, and we have never heard from the FBI about an investigation of this kind — much less tried to restrict it.

    In an appearance this morning on Bloomberg Television, reporter Jordan Robertson made further claims about the supposed discovery of malicious chips, saying, “In Apple’s case, our understanding is it was a random spot check of some problematic servers that led to this detection.”

    As we have previously informed Bloomberg, this is completely untrue. Apple has never found malicious chips in our servers.

    Finally, in response to questions we have received from other news organizations since Businessweek published its story, we are not under any kind of gag order or other confidentiality obligations.
     
  3. Quickie
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    Quickie Captain

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    Not only, Apple.

    Supermicro (The supplier of the motherboard, and Amazon also denies it.


    The Big Hack: Statements From Amazon, Apple, Supermicro, and the Chinese Government

    Email
    In emailed statements, Amazon, Apple, and Supermicro disputed summaries of Bloomberg Businessweek’s reporting. Their statements are published here in full, along with one from a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson.

    Amazon
    It’s untrue that AWS knew about a supply chain compromise, an issue with malicious chips, or hardware modifications when acquiring Elemental. It’s also untrue that AWS knew about servers containing malicious chips or modifications in data centers based in China, or that AWS worked with the FBI to investigate or provide data about malicious hardware.

    We’ve re-reviewed our records relating to the Elemental acquisition for any issues related to SuperMicro, including re-examining a third-party security audit that we conducted in 2015 as part of our due diligence prior to the acquisition. We’ve found no evidence to support claims of malicious chips or hardware modifications.



    The pre-acquisition audit described four issues with a web application (not hardware or chips) that SuperMicro provides for management of their motherboards. All these findings were fully addressed before we acquired Elemental. The first two issues, which the auditor deemed as critical, related to a vulnerability in versions prior to 3.15 of this web application (our audit covered prior versions of Elemental appliances as well), and these vulnerabilities had been publicly disclosed by SuperMicro on 12/13/2013. Because Elemental appliances are not designed to be exposed to the public internet, our customers are protected against the vulnerability by default. Nevertheless, the Elemental team had taken the extra action on or about 1/9/2014 to communicate with customers and provide instructions to download a new version of the web application from SuperMicro (and after 1/9/2014, all appliances shipped by Elemental had updated versions of the web application). So, the two “critical” issues that the auditor found, were actually fixed long before we acquired Elemental. The remaining two non-critical issues with the web application were determined to be fully mitigated by the auditors if customers used the appliances as intended, without exposing them to the public internet.



    Additionally, in June 2018, researchers made public reports of vulnerabilities in SuperMicro firmware. As part of our standard operating procedure, we notified affected customers promptly, and recommended they upgrade the firmware in their appliances.

    Apple
    Over the course of the past year, Bloomberg has contacted us multiple times with claims, sometimes vague and sometimes elaborate, of an alleged security incident at Apple. Each time, we have conducted rigorous internal investigations based on their inquiries and each time we have found absolutely no evidence to support any of them. We have repeatedly and consistently offered factual responses, on the record, refuting virtually every aspect of Bloomberg’s story relating to Apple.


    On this we can be very clear: Apple has never found malicious chips, “hardware manipulations” or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server. Apple never had any contact with the FBI or any other agency about such an incident. We are not aware of any investigation by the FBI, nor are our contacts in law enforcement.

    [​IMG]
    After 3 years, the top-secret investigation into the most significant supply chain attack in U.S. history remains ongoing. Read the full story.
    PHOTOGRAPHER: VICTOR PRADO FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK
    In response to Bloomberg’s latest version of the narrative, we present the following facts: Siri and Topsy never shared servers; Siri has never been deployed on servers sold to us by Super Micro; and Topsy data was limited to approximately 2,000 Super Micro servers, not 7,000. None of those servers has ever been found to hold malicious chips.

    As a matter of practice, before servers are put into production at Apple they are inspected for security vulnerabilities and we update all firmware and software with the latest protections. We did not uncover any unusual vulnerabilities in the servers we purchased from Super Micro when we updated the firmware and software according to our standard procedures.

    We are deeply disappointed that in their dealings with us, Bloomberg’s reporters have not been open to the possibility that they or their sources might be wrong or misinformed. Our best guess is that they are confusing their story with a previously-reported 2016 incident in which we discovered an infected driver on a single Super Micro server in one of our labs. That one-time event was determined to be accidental and not a targeted attack against Apple.

    While there has been no claim that customer data was involved, we take these allegations seriously and we want users to know that we do everything possible to safeguard the personal information they entrust to us. We also want them to know that what Bloomberg is reporting about Apple is inaccurate.

    Apple has always believed in being transparent about the ways we handle and protect data. If there were ever such an event as Bloomberg News has claimed, we would be forthcoming about it and we would work closely with law enforcement. Apple engineers conduct regular and rigorous security screenings to ensure that our systems are safe. We know that security is an endless race and that’s why we constantly fortify our systems against increasingly sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals who want to steal our data.

    Supermicro
    While we would cooperate with any government investigation, we are not aware of any investigation regarding this topic nor have we been contacted by any government agency in this regard. We are not aware of any customer dropping Supermicro as a supplier for this type of issue.

    Every major corporation in today’s security climate is constantly responding to threats and evolving their security posture. As part of that effort we are in regular contact with a variety of vendors, industry partners and government agencies sharing information on threats, best practices and new tools. This is standard practice in the industry today. However, we have not been in contact with any government agency regarding the issues you raised.


    Furthermore, Supermicro doesn’t design or manufacture networking chips or the associated firmware and we, as well as other leading server/storage companies, procure them from the same leading networking companies.

    China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    China is a resolute defender of cybersecurity. It advocates for the international community to work together on tackling cybersecurity threats through dialogue on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.

    Supply chain safety in cyberspace is an issue of common concern, and China is also a victim. China, Russia, and other member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization proposed an “International code of conduct for information security” to the United Nations as early as 2011. It included a pledge to ensure the supply chain security of information and communications technology products and services, in order to prevent other states from using their advantages in resources and technologies to undermine the interest of other countries. We hope parties make less gratuitous accusations and suspicions but conduct more constructive talk and collaboration so that we can work together in building a peaceful, safe, open, cooperative and orderly cyberspace. —

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/arti...ermicro-and-beijing-respond?srnd=premium-asia
     
    #253 Quickie, Oct 5, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2018
  4. Quickie
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    A lot of holes in the accusation. It's not like the chip is stick on the motherboard and then it'll do the hacking. It need to be incorporated into the overall electronic circuit design of the circuit boards, which is the responsibility of 3 involved companies. In essence, there need to be an inside job within the 3 companies for the hacking to be possible. A proper investigation would need to involve electronic/software/circuit design engineers. Investigative journalists alone won't do.
     
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  5. taxiya
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    taxiya Major
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    Another attempt of propaganda. A "journalist" without EE and CS knowledge trying to fool and scare the mass who is not able to judge the matter. Calling them "investigative journalists" is too lenient, too kind.
     
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  6. Anlsvrthng
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    Anlsvrthng Senior Member
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    Its needs only 1 company.

    All recent intel/AMD CPU contain this core.
    It is not on the mobo. It is in the ICs.
     
  7. Anlsvrthng
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    Anlsvrthng Senior Member
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    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/feat...-america-s-top-companies?srnd=businessweek-v2
    This is the original article.
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/arti...dware-found-in-u-s-telecom?srnd=technology-vp
    This is from yesterday.


    The two article describe two different kind of attack.
    The first is a "firmware hack" of the Supermicro servers, used by countless company, mention one manufactured for a company supply high compression data technologies for big companies, like google, apple, us military drones.
    Now, this install a small chip with six connector, the job of it is to modify the firmware of server controller during boot. It respecting that the controller IC using serial flash.
    The job of this is to provide remote control interface to the server, and gives full control above it.
    So , modifying the firmware of it make it possible to transfer the control of the server to a remote IP.

    It is a plausible hack, and matching the way as example the Gamecube firmware was hacked. That required an inch size PCB in 2003, manufactured from commercial parts.
    Considering the nation state the story is plausible.

    It doesn't require any sophisticated stuff, only to override the original serial flash signal, and require only few , very faint wire.

    Anyway, the second update gives a less plausible way, mention same ethernet connector, that hide an IC that communicate independently from the server.
    That require a complete computer to installed, and sound like a fake story.
     
  8. AndrewS
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    AndrewS Senior Member
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  9. AndrewS
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  10. JsCh
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    JsCh New Member

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    About hacked ethernet port, see highlighted below,

    How the NSA hacks PCs, phones, routers, hard disks 'at speed of light': Spy tech catalog leaks • The Register
     

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