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Saturday, 20 October 2018 06:50

Tim Cook calls on Bloomberg to retract China spying story Featured

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Tim Cook calls on Bloomberg to retract China spying story Courtesy YouTube

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has taken the unusual step of asking Bloomberg to retract a story it published earlier this month, claiming that his firm was among companies that were exposed to spying through chips implanted on server mainboards made by US company Supermicro Computer.

Cook told Buzzfeed News in a phone interview: "There is no truth in their story about Apple. They need to do that right thing and retract it."

Apple issued a detailed denial when the story was published. Later, its former general counsel, Bruce Sewell, said that the FBI had told him it had told him it had no knowledge of any probe into such an incident, as claimed by Bloomberg.

And the company took the additional step of writing to the US Congress denying the story. Chief security officer George Stathakopoulos said in a letter that the company had found no evidence to justify the claims made in the Bloomberg report.

In its story, Bloomberg claimed security testing by Amazon in 2015 had revealed the existence of tiny chips that were not part of the original mainboard design and that this led to an extensive investigation by US Government agencies which found servers built using these boards in data centres belonging to the Department of Defence, on warships, and for processing data being handled by CIA drones.

The news agency said that major banks were also using servers made by Supermicro and that the government investigation led to several companies getting rid of the Supermicro equipment.

A few years ago, the same Bloomberg journalists, Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley, wrote a story, claiming that the US Government had prior knowledge of the Heartbleed bug, a serious vulnerability in OpenSSL, before it was announced. Bloomberg did not issue a follow-up after the story was denied.

Cook said: “I was involved in our response to this story from the beginning. I personally talked to the Bloomberg reporters along with Bruce Sewell, who was then our general counsel. We were very clear with them that this did not happen, and answered all their questions.

“Each time they brought this up to us, the story changed, and each time we investigated we found nothing.”

He said the likelihood of an incident like the one Bloomberg claimed could happen without him knowing about it, he said the odds of that were more or less zero.

“We turned the company upside down. Email searches, data centre records, financial records, shipment records. We really forensically whipped through the company to dig very deep and each time we came back to the same conclusion: This did not happen. There’s no truth to this.”

Bloomberg told Buzzfeed that it stood by its story.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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