Cook doubles down.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, interviewed for a BuzzFeed News article published today, Oct. 19, categorically denies that the company was the victim of any spying from Chinese authorities.
Earlier this month, Bloomberg ran a cover story alleging that Apple, Amazon, and around 30 other major technology and banking companies had bought servers built in China that contained minuscule spying chips, installed by manufacturers at the behest of the Chinese military.
The allegations have been denied by the manufacturer in question, Super Micro Computer, along with Apple and Amazon. Numerous intelligence agencies, and security researchers and experts, have also expressed concern over the veracity of the original story, which Bloomberg stands by. But Cook decided to double down on his company’s affirmation that it never received compromised hardware, and was not part of any intelligence investigations into spying related to Super Micro chips.
Something is wrong. Blanket denials from companies, NCSC and DHS are v. unusual. The only precedent for this is a 2014 Bloomberg article, by the same author, which claimed NSA exploited Heartbleed, and was vigorously knocked down with zero follow up by Bloomberg or correction. https://t.co/lRMiJlXD5G— Nicole Perlroth (@nicoleperlroth) October 7, 2018
In a rare move for Apple, Cook told BuzzFeed that he was calling for Bloomberg to retract its story. Apple is one of the most analyzed companies in the world, generating countless stories on its products and businesses every day, many with mistakes or inaccuracies in them. But as BuzzFeed points out, Apple hasn’t ever publicly asked for a complete retraction to a story before.
Cook told BuzzFeed he had taken the helm from the start when directing Apple’s response to Bloomberg’s story:
I personally talked to the Bloomberg reporters along with Bruce Sewel who was then our general counsel. We were very clear with them that this did not happen, and answered all their questions. Each time they brought this up to us, the story changed and each time we investigated we found nothing.
Bloomberg has yet to back down from its initial report, but Cook said in no uncertain terms that the company hasn’t found anything to back up the claims:
We turned the company upside down. Email searches, datacenter 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.
It doesn’t seem as if it would be in Apple’s best interest to double down on its denials if it were truly hiding something, but then, Bloomberg is one of the most respected news-gathering outlets in the world. The truth may eventually come out, but it seems at this point it might take legal action for that to happen.