Tim Cook says Bloomberg must retract Apple spy chip story

22 Oct 2018

Tim Cook. Image: Stuart Isett/Fortune Photo/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Apple CEO Tim Cook has gone on record about the controversial Bloomberg ‘spy chip’ story.

At the very beginning of October, Bloomberg Businessweek published an incendiary story that alleged Chinese spies had infiltrated the hardware supply chains of major firms, including Apple.

While the companies involved denied the story and international security agencies said they had no grounds to believe the allegations, the publication stood by the piece.

No truth in the story

Now, Apple CEO Tim Cook has finally gone on the record about the incident in an interview with BuzzFeed News. As well as a vociferous denial from Apple, the company’s chief executive spoke about the incident himself. He said: “There is no truth in their story about Apple. They need to do that right thing and retract it.”

This statement from Cook marks the first time Apple has publicly called for the retraction of a news story, even when other previously published stories contained major errors relating to the company. Bloomberg reiterated its previous defence of the story, saying it was the result of more than a year of reporting and more than 100 separate interviews.

The story claimed that data centre hardware used by Apple and Amazon Web Services, provided by Supermicro, was used in surveillance activities by the Chinese government.

Apple forensically examined its own records

According to Cook, Apple examined its records in-depth to ensure the allegations were without merit. He said: “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.”

As well as the written rebuttal of the story, Apple’s vice-president of security, George Stathakopoulos, also wrote to US Congress, directly denying the allegations laid out by the Bloomberg journalists.

Earlier in October, the US Department of Homeland Security said: “Like our partners in the UK, the National Cyber Security Centre, at this time we have no reason to doubt the statements from the companies named in the story.”

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

Earlier in October, US director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, told CyberScoop that he had seen no evidence of the claims laid out in the Bloomberg report.

Tim Cook. Image: Stuart Isett/Fortune Photo/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects