“Spying” hardware faces tougher checks

Super Micro has said it will upgrade its hardware reviews following accusations it shipped malicious chips in its systems that would transmit data to China

Despite disagreeing with accusations that such spy tech exists in their motherboards and chips, Super Micro says will be assessing their hardware to look for any such errors. 

The company says however that it simply isn’t practical to insert complex, data-transmitting technology into a complex network without it being detected by software, manufacturing and assembly processes.

“Despite the lack of any proof that a malicious hardware chip exists, we are undertaking a complicated and time-consuming review,” says Super Micro.

Hardware spying

The Super Micro hardware believed affected is primarily motherboards, which are regularly used by companies including Apple, Amazon and multiple U.S government agencies. 

It was feared that this could transmit sensitive U.S data to China, with 17 United States intelligence agencies sources claiming that Chinese spies had placed spyware into Super Micro’s hardware, however many ardently dispute the claim.

Jake Williams, former NSA analyst and founder of cyber security firm Rendition Infosec, publicly said that while it is possible to insert such chips into motherboards and other computer hardware, each chip added would increase the risk of detection. The more chips added the more likely detection is. Also, there would be no way of knowing which chips would make it into the systems of government and private sector workers with access to data that would be deemed important to China.

“This technique would only be used for high value targets that couldn’t be easily compromised via another attack vector,” said Williams.

Despite a claim from Bloomberg that Apple and Amazon found such malicious chips in 2015, both companies rebuke the claims and asked for a retraction of the report.

Shares of Super Micro rose over 4% amidst the news.

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