The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies

I don’t doubt that China is spying on the US by whatever means available, both the official spy organisations and some of their large companies. But so does the US and every other major country in return.

I just wonder about this idea of secret chips that can be used to spy on, or sabotage equipment, being planted in just about everything made in China. Is Uncle Xi listening to every conversation and reading every text message sent on smartphones made in China??

How do they do that? There are thousands of factories that make and/or assemble electronic equipment of all kinds, with literally millions of workers doing the jobs and thousands of managers and administrator. Would it be possible to hide a large scale operation of the nature that is described from becoming known?

Many of these factories and plants are owned by, and/or produce on behalf of, foreign entities that presumably have some sort of quality control on what is produced. (For ships equipment Classification Societies do tests and issues certificates)

I know it is annoying that China is starting to assert it’s industrial and military power and refuse to bend to western dominance, but you may as well get used to it. They are not going to attack the US or Europe with their rockets and aircraft carriers, but they do want to make sure that nobody gets the wrong ideas and try to do so against China, or in their backyard ever again.

The Chinese have long memories and do not forget the centuries of humiliation.

Thats a whole different view than say Germany that just worked hard to make quality products ( as they always did) and spread their wings worldwide.
People buy German cars because of the price quality issues versus their local products and we all by Chinese products…oh we dont do we…

China gov is just trying to assert itself to the population by using its cash and might to …good question…convince the punters the commie way is best and stay in power which is what its really all about.
Taking over the world is one thing but keeping a lid on its internal problems will come first and with 800 million local problems they have a big job even after the one million crooked party officials that came to like capitalism more than communism, that needed re education.

No need to. This type of invasive chip is intended to disrupt infrastructure and supply chain and bring a country to its knees without firing a shot. Diplomats of both nations will tiptoe around it but its use is an blatant act of aggression.

its a copy book of Russia under the commies, divert all your assets to spying because you know the other side has better everything, then one day oh sh1t we run out of money because we dont make anything the world wants.
making cheap ( something China is doing that Russia missed) is a race to the bottom unless you are resource rich?

they were buying up Australia too in the 80’s, people said if you cant speak Japanese you will struggle to get a job in the future…oh well their population got old, their ponzi scheme ended and here we are…
They did buy Ozzie beef though as no mad cow in OZ

That is true, no mad COWS in OZ!!

Isn’t it that the smaller the chips the more expensive they are??
Since these chips are the size of a grain of sand and are apparently able to do the most amazing things, they must cost a fortune to produce, (or buy from wherever they have the capabilities to make such sophisticated chips??)

Maybe they will go broke before they manage to conquer the world??

chips like bikini’s…smaller the more they cost
I 'm still not sure if this is all fake news or not?
might be even funnier if its a Russian chip on a Chinese board, lol

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Er, guys, I worked in computer security for 40+ years. Details here:

Oral History Interview

This attack is perfectly feasible and plausible. It actually is a bit on the crude side, and one could speculate that it was done in a hurry. That would be consistent with what’s going on in the world.

You’ll have to take the above statement on faith for the obvious reasons :slight_smile:



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I dont get how testing of the board when it came back from China didnt reveal it.
How could a company design a board and not recognize it when they had designed it
No QC in a computer board design company?
Have we seen any data on what the chip actually does, as in packet captures?

Smart stuff would be to swap out a chip with new code so nothing to see.

Americans still buying Hauwei phones I assume, when you turn them on first time you have to agree to send all your data to China, like DOH!

Because people test that the board has at least the functionality they want, not that it has no more. Testing for the latter is very difficult and expensive and … well, it’s all about the Benjamins.



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and the guys that designed it never looked at it?

This was one of the links:

Hardware Implants

Good explanation of how it might be done.

Even if someone were careful enough to check every chip against known parts, we can hide stuff further. Capacitors are often big metal cylinders scattered all over the board. Visual and X-ray inspection would show - a capacitor. What if we stuff components inside though?

you plug it in and monitor it, that show people find out how google phones and microsoft 10 scam you

About 5 years ago I worked in China supervising some modifications being done aboard the company’s ships. The ABS surveyor wanted to see the certificates and documentation on all the piping and whatnot used. If it was made in China the certificates were double checked to verify they weren’t falsified. Unfortunately there was a track history of substandard material with faked paperwork being supplied by certain vendors/shipyards.

Speaking of anchors, I worked with a guy in 2008-09 that had been a Lloyd’s Register Surveyor from 1994 thru 2002 with several projects in China. He said those were interesting times. He witnessed several anchor drop tests where the anchors snapped off during testing. What was left of the anchors was sent for testing. They found the metallurgy to be significantly below spec and the certificates had been altered/falsified.

Edit: Apologize for the off topic post. When the comment about anchors was made I could not help but think about the story my compatriot told me about witnessing Chinese made anchors breaking during a drop test.

Quite possibly not. It isn’t unusual for chip foundry/fab installations to be located well apart from the design office. And there is no particular reason for designers to be involved in inspection.

These boards move through a (often geographically dispersed) pipeline that is optimized to minimize time and cost to achieve “adequate” functionality and performance. There are any number of places where boards could have been intercepted and modified. And remember, everybody’s physical security is focused on making sure that product doesn’t walk out the door. Few, if any, outfits are capable of detecting that product has walked out the door and walked back in again.



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I’m full aware of the problem that was common with material certificate, usually only available in Chinese, but it has got a lot better over time.
I was more referring on the absurdity of questioning anchors and chains when the subject was about embedded spy chips

Certainly, if you are in doubt about the quality you can order a re-test before acepting delivery from the Canadian vendor that is the contracting party.

Does Kongsberg DP equipment contain Chinese components? If so, it’s time to stop buying it.

great interface and cheap underneath has been their business model so maybe?
Not that they are cheap when you buy the spares…

sorry for the hijack but great china story…
Due to the corruption the Chinese gov dont allow any Chinese companies to produce or deliver boilers and other high pressure pipes. Must all come from overseas.
Too many explosions in China and the gov come looking for supplier who says we never shipped , just sent quote.
Mate was involved in a FPSO conversion with a some big name Chinese companies that they have worked with before.
They had to supply the boiler tube and stuff from the USA, months later when testing the now assembled structure explodes at half working pressure.
Local guy very angry, looking at foreign partner, oops.
They take sample of tube and its not the one shipped.
They worked out it was substituted when trucked from dock to factory in China. Cost the local guy millions.
Thats the problem in China, no matter how keen the boss is to do a quality job, the staff have other agendas