WASHINGTON: Tiny chips inserted in US computer equipment manufactured in China were used as part of a vast effort by Beijing to steal US technology secrets, a published report said.
The Bloomberg News report said the chips, the size of a grain of rice, were used on equipment made for Amazon, which first alerted US authorities, and Apple, and possibly for other companies and government agencies.
Bloomberg said a three-year secret investigation, which remains open, enabled spies to create a “stealth doorway” into computer equipment, a hardware-based entry that would be more effective and harder to detect than a software hack.
Citing unnamed US officials, Bloomberg said a unit of the People’s Liberation Army were involved the operation that placed the chips on equipment manufactured in China for US-based Super Micro Computer Inc.
Supermicro, according to Bloomberg, also manufactured equipment for Department of Defense data centers, the CIA’s drone operations, and onboard networks of Navy warships.
The report said Amazon discovered the problem when it acquired software firm Elemental and began a security review of equipment made for Elemental by California-based Supermicro.
According to Bloomberg, the spy chips were designed for motherboards — the nerve centers for computer equipment — used in data centers operated by Apple, Amazon Web Services and others.