Apple, Amazon deny reports of a massive Chinese hardware attack

Logo light box of the Apple store located on the Huaihai

The attack by Chinese spies reached nearly 30 US companies by compromising America's technology supply chain, according to extensive interviews with intelligence and corporate sources.

The data servers were sold by San Jose-based Supermicro. Bloomberg's sources said an initial probe turned up "troubling issues", leading the Amazon Web Services team to more closely examine Elemental's server products.

Investigators say that a unit of China's People's Liberation Army planted chips the size of a pencil point onto computer motherboards being built for a U.S. company called Supermicro.

The spying devices, which Bloomberg said have been the subject of a U.S. government investigation since 2015, were allegedly used for stealing data, gathering intellectual property and trade secrets from American companies.

Chinese military members were able sneak the compromised microchips into various Chinese factories where the motherboards were assembled, the report said.

We learn a few things from this statement, namely that Apple has been already asked for comments on the spy chips, and has hinted towards an earlier, much more benign incident.

"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", the Apple statement reads.

"Supermicro takes all security claims very seriously and makes continuous investments in the security capabilities of their products". The nature of the attack allowed the spies to create secret backdoors in these products, providing almost unlimited access to some of the data generated by the products these motherboards were powering.

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Get Data Sheet, Fortune's technology newsletter. The story says Amazon found the chips while investigating a potential partnership with a startup and alerted the government, though Amazon also disputes the account.

Amazon's AWS said it has "found no evidence to support claims of malicious chips or hardware modifications".

"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".

Elemental's servers were in U.S. Navy ships and Defense Department data centers, Businessweek interviews with U.S. officials reveal.

According to the report, AWS and Apple stopped buying servers from Supermicro in 2016, and soon thereafter Supermicro told investors that it had lost "two major customers".

Bloomberg said the denials were countered by testimony from "six current and former national security officials" as well as insiders at both Apple and Amazon who had detailed the investigation and its aftermath.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a written request for comment on Thursday.

For its part, Supermicro said that it is not aware of ever losing a customer to this type of issue, adding that it does not know of any investigation and has not been contacted by any government agency regarding this kind of matter. Representatives of Apple, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security could not be reached for comment by Reuters.

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