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FBI Director Deflects Questions on China Tampering With Server Chips

Chris Strohm

(Bloomberg) -- FBI Director Christopher Wray deflected questions from a Republican senator about a Bloomberg Businessweek report that China’s intelligence services used subcontractors to plant malicious chips in servers bound for major U.S. companies, including Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.

“We have very specific policy that applies to us as law enforcement agencies to neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation,” Wray told the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday. “I do want to be careful that my comment not be construed as inferring, or implying I should say, that there is an investigation.”

“Be careful what you read in this context,” he added.

The report by Bloomberg Businessweek said that Chinese infiltration through subcontractors of Super Micro Computer Inc. reached almost 30 companies, including Amazon and Apple, citing one official. Super Micro, Amazon and Apple have disputed the findings and said they found no evidence of such an attack.

The infiltration of the computer systems, which stemmed from servers assembled by Super Micro, was investigated as part of an FBI counterintelligence probe, according to the Bloomberg Businessweek report, which cited national security officials familiar with the matter.

Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the committee, said the story seems like it’s “pretty sound reporting,” and he asked, “How come I’m finding out from Bloomberg and not in terms of contact from the federal government?”

He added, “If this is not accurate, I would like to have the FBI or somebody come out and say it’s not.”

Appearing alongside Wray at the hearing on “Threats to the Homeland,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen repeated her agency’s previous position on the report.

"We at DHS do not have any evidence that supports the article," she said. "We have no reason to doubt what the companies have said."

On Tuesday, Bloomberg News reported that a major U.S. telecommunications company discovered manipulated hardware from Super Micro and removed it in August, citing Yossi Appleboum, a security expert for the telecommunications company. He provided documents, analysis and other evidence of the discovery after the publication of the Bloomberg Businessweek report. Bloomberg isn’t identifying the company due to Appleboum’s nondisclosure agreement with the client.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Strohm in Washington at cstrohm1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kevin Whitelaw at kwhitelaw@bloomberg.net, Larry Liebert

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