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Security

Tim Cook wants Bloomberg to retract its spy chip story

Bloomberg had reported that China infiltrated hardware of Apple, Amazon and others in a mass surveillance campaign. Apple and Amazon have denied the report.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook

James Martin/CNET

Chinese spy chips didn't infiltrate Apple's technology, says CEO Tim Cook, and he wants Bloomberg to retract its story saying they did.

"There is no truth in their story about Apple," Cook told BuzzFeed News on Friday. "They need to do the right thing and retract it."

A report from Bloomberg Businessweek earlier this month said Chinese spy chips were allegedly used to gather intellectual property and trade secrets from the iPhone maker and Amazon Web Services, an Amazon subsidiary that provides cloud computing services. The chips were found in servers assembled in China for a US company called Super Micro, according to the report, and could have been subject to a secret US government investigation that began in 2015.

Apple immediately denied the report and even told Congress that it was never hacked.

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On Friday, Cook again denied the allegations during the interview with BuzzFeed and said he wants Bloomberg to retract its story. Though there are often inaccurate rumors and other stories published about Apple, the company rarely asks for a retraction.

"I personally talked to the Bloomberg reporters along with Bruce Sewell, who was then our general counsel," Cook told BuzzFeed. "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."

Bloomberg didn't respond to a request for comment. Prior to BuzzFeed's report, the company has stood by its story.

Apple on Friday declined to comment beyond Cook's remarks.

On Monday, Andy Jassy, the head of Amazon Web Services, said he agreed with Cook and also called for a Bloomberg retraction.

"Bloomberg story is wrong about Amazon, too," he wrote in a tweet. "They offered no proof, story kept changing, and showed no interest in our answers unless we could validate their theories. Reporters got played or took liberties."

Apple, AWS, Super Micro and China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs all disputed the report, which cited anonymous government and corporate sources.

The report came against a backdrop of growing concern over potential surveillance and security issues in Chinese-made equipment, worries that have hindered the country's bid to become a global technology powerhouse. The Australian government, for instance, effectively blocked Chinese carriers in August from building the country's 5G network. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump proposed a nationalized 5G network that would be free of the possibility of overseas interference.

The US Department of Homeland Security said it was aware of the reports of compromised supply chains in the technology industry. However, "at this time we have no reason to doubt the statements from the companies named in the story," the department said in its statement.

First published Oct. 19, 11:17 a.m. PT.
Corrected, Oct. 19, 4:50 p.m. PT to note that Super Micro is a US company.
Update, Oct. 22, 9:51 a.m. PT to add AWS comments.

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