U.S. tightens exports to China’s chipmaker SMIC, citing risk of military use
Taiwan’s communications and anti-espionage organs said they had not found any spy microchips such as those rumored to have been attached to servers and motherboards imported from China.
Earlier this month, a Bloomberg exposé alleging China implanted espionage microchips on parts and semiconductors for export to the US caused quite a stir, prompting a vehement denial from Beijing as well as assurances from Apple and Amazon that their products and services and customer data had never been compromised.
For instance, Supermicro, a San Jose, California-based IT firm founded by Taiwanese and Chinese technicians, has been put under the full glare of the media and US national security offices after Bloomberg dropped the spy chip bombshell.
The company sells servers to US tech giants and relies solely on motherboards made by its Chinese contractors.
“The security of the global technology supply chain had been compromised, even if consumers and most companies didn’t know it yet,” noted the long investigative report, whose conclusion was that the Chinese military could produce a microchip as small as a sharpened pencil tip.
The chip could be planted into server motherboards to change the core operating system, according to Bloomberg, who claimed that the device could contact hackers’ computers for further instructions and code.
Taiwanese papers reported last week that the island’s national security apparatus as well as the National Communications Commission initiated an immediate joint review of the government’s procurement of devices that could contain parts made in China.
The commission added on Thursday that to further expand their review of devices and procurement, the government had already established an Internet of Things laboratory to enhance device inspections.
The lab had been randomly selecting devices sold on the market and so far had found no suspicious microchips, the island’s semi-official Central News Agency reported.
The communications watchdog is in charge of inspecting and certifying specifications for smartphones, telecom facilities and electronics sold in Taiwan. The committee’s officials were grilled by lawmakers about their measures to counter China’s infiltration in recent Legislative Yuan question-and-answer sessions.
Commission Chairwoman Nicole Chan said their experts had not ruled out the possibility that such a chip could be implanted in devices, but she also added that nor was there any evidence that a microchip smaller than a grain of rice could perform the highly complicated tasks alleged by Bloomberg.
Taiwan has already banned telecom operators from acquiring devices made by Chinese manufacturers, shutting out Chinese heavyweights like Huawei and ZTE.
But the government of the self-ruled island is yet to give a clear picture if there is any security loophole resulting from the use of Chinese-made motherboards and servers in other sectors.
Nor is there any mechanism to monitor the operations of the numerous Taiwanese IT firms, chipmakers and electronics contract manufacturers such as Foxconn and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company who rush to set up assembly lines in China.