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Sophisticated cyber criminality

After a week in which the UK government directly accused Russian military intelligence of being behind a spate of what is described as “reckless and indiscriminate cyber-attacks”, comes news of a far more subtle cybercrime.

According to a report from Bloomberg, a Chinese military unit has been inserting tiny microchips into servers used by companies, Apple and Amazon included, to give China backdoor access to computers and data.

The chips were said to have been implanted on to the motherboards of servers on production lines in China, giving hackers unfettered access to anything the server did.

The compromised hardware, which was sold by Super Micro Computer, then found its way into the data centres and operations of 30 companies across a number of different sectors.

Amazon, Apple and Super Micro have all denied the report, which said that the hack came to light back in 2015. And while the Chinese government has denied any involvement, Chinese tech companies took a serious hit on the Hong Kong stock exchange, where share prices tumbled.

Whatever the truth, it comes at a difficult time in relations between the US and China and will add to growing concerns about so-called “supply chain attacks” on companies who outsource their manufacturing.

Neil Tyler

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