Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook is calling for Bloomberg to retract a story that claimed the company was the victim of an attack on its hardware that was conducted by the government of China.
BuzzFeed News, citing an interview it had with Apple’s CEO last week, reported Cook responded to an inquiry about the fight with Bloomberg over the story Apple has repeatedly denied by saying that there isn’t any truth to the story: “They need to do that right thing and retract it.” According to BuzzFeed, for Cook to make this statement publicly is out of the ordinary for the Cupertino, California iPhone maker.
Earlier in October, the Bloomberg Businessweek story reported that Chinese spies have compromised the U.S. companies via malicious chips in servers heading to Silicon Valley that were manufactured in China. The chips provided a backdoor way in for the attackers. Apple was one of the companies that were reportedly attacked and was a main subject of the Bloomberg story. Bloomberg contended in the report that Apple discovered the issue in 2015, ended ties with the vendor and reported the incident to the FBI. The vendor was Supermicro, noted the report. Apple says it never happened, and in a comment to Bloomberg provided details to back that up and also issued a letter to Congress that was signed by its vice president of information security, George Stathakopoulos. Bloomberg has stood by the story, publishing a follow-up that furthers the original story.
Bloomberg told BuzzFeed in response to Cook’s comments that it still stands by the story. “Bloomberg Businessweek’s investigation is the result of more than a year of reporting, during which we conducted more than 100 interviews,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News in response to a series of questions. “Seventeen individual sources, including government officials and insiders at the companies, confirmed the manipulation of hardware and other elements of the attacks. We also published three companies’ full statements, as well as a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We stand by our story and are confident in our reporting and sources.”
Cook told BuzzFeed that he has been involved in the response to the story from the start and that he is getting increasingly frustrated that the company's rebuttals have been ignored by Bloomberg. “I personally talked to the Bloomberg reporters along with Bruce Sewell, who was then our general counsel. We were very clear with them that this did not happen, and answered all their questions,” said Cook. “Each time they brought this up to us, the story changed, and each time we investigated we found nothing.” Cook raised an issue with the lack of evidence he contends Bloomberg supplied. He said reporters didn’t give Apple specific details about the chips and called the accounts “vague.” “We turned the company upside down,” Cook said. “Email searches, data center 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.”