China has a Big Hack on a Little Chip

~by Lynn Matthews, Michael Scott


Bloomberg recently reported in an article that went viral in the technology sector, but very little coverage given to average Americans, The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies.

During the manufacturing process, China was able to sneak a device, so small it could fit on the head of a pencil into the motherboard of computers. the chips allowed the attackers to create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines. These chips according to the Verge would "allow attackers to covertly modify these servers, bypass software security checks, and, essentially, give the Chinese government a complete backdoor into these companies’ networks".


When security is at stake, officials normally look to software, and bugs, trojan horses or viruses within the software programs.  The thought of a device being clandestinely placed within the motherboard was something security officials would normally overlook.  Believing that quality control would find such anomaly whether it was overseas or within the States.

"The chips had been inserted during the manufacturing process, two officials say, by operatives from a unit of the People's Liberation Army," Bloomberg reported.


The specific company in question is Elemental.  Who does work with American spy agencies.  In 2009 their work was beginning to be used in "national security missions across the U.S. government. Public documents, including the company’s own promotional materials, show that the servers have been used inside Department of Defense data centers to process drone and surveillance-camera footage, on Navy warships to transmit feeds of airborne missions, and inside government buildings to enable secure videoconferencing. NASA, both houses of Congress, and the Department of Homeland Security have also been customers. This portfolio made Elemental a target for foreign adversaries".


The highly sensitive nature of security issues has led to speculation that US Navy has had hackers disrupt their systems.  In 2017, Business Insider reported, The Navy's 4th accident this year is stirring concerns about hackers targeting US warships.  Jeff Stutzman, a former Navy information warfare specialist, told McClatchy, "There's something more than just human error going on because there would have been a lot of humans to be checks and balances."


Motherboards are the central communication component of computers.  They are the point with which all components and peripherals connect.  So, given the severity of finding a piece of hardware that can manipulate security checks is a serious situation.  The Largest manufacturer of motherboards in the world is Supermicro.  Supermicro who makes just about all the motherboards for Elemental, manufactures 90% of their motherboards in China.


Should the US decide to ensure that financial transactions, banking, realestate, Department of defense, and other day to day operations are not affected by this malicious attack on our computer hardware, RHM recommends, all servers, all hardware with motherboards purchased from companies that outsource their hardware, software, or peripheral components be destroyed and information re-created. Stricter quality control done here in the United States under the strictest of control.


RHM will be following this story and will bring the most pertinent information regarding this hack on our government and its citizens.  Tips can be submitted via email.  If you have any information regarding this please notify us so that we may update our article.

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