According to Bloomberg (and many other sites) some servers manufactured in China and shipped to the US were infiltrated with a spy chip the size of an SMD capacitor (as it says in the article): https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-10-04/the-big-hack-how-china-used-a-tiny-chip-to-infiltrate-america-s-top-companies

How exactly would this chip work, and what exactly can you fit on an SMD-size hardware?

I'd expect it to have a sort of a TCP/IP stack at least, maybe some sort of encryption and the ability to tap into communications.

Also, taking it's small size into account, and a claim that it was only a single chip, I wouldn't expect it to be connected to more than 2-4 data lines at most (taking into account that it would also need to transmit data), so what would be the most vulnerable data lines on a server to connect this chip to?

  • 2
    The article is clear that they have no idea how it works. They are only speculating what they might do. As there is no data, and we, and Bloomberg, can only speculate, I am closing as opinion-based.
    – schroeder
    Oct 15, 2018 at 13:24

1 Answer 1


This is not a real answer to your question how this chip works - since no real answer (currently) exist to your question. But it would be too long for a comment.

... according to Bloomberg (and many other sites)...

There are not "many other sites". There is only Bloomberg claiming that this spy chip exists. All others are only rephrasing what Bloomberg said and refer to Bloomberg as source of the claims.

... how exactly would this chip work, ...

Bloomberg did not publish any details. Which means everything how such a chip might work is pure speculation. And there are many speculations and some are really detailled. If you want to get an idea how such a chip might work if it then exists refer to this last link.

Only, the affected companies (Apple, Amazon, Supermicro) fiercely and with an uncommon amount of detail refute any claims of Bloomberg that such chips was found in the first place. And, both US Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Centre in the UK believe the counterclaims of Apple and Amazon more than they believe Bloomberg. Although probably everybody acknowledges that such an attack might in theory be done and that supply-chain attacks are a problem in general.

Additionally, there are counterclaims based on the argument that this hack would make not much sense at all considering that other attacks using SuperMicro motherboards would have been much easier to create, much less detectable and much better to target against specific customers than the claimed spy chip.

  • It has been several months now. Either it is an SMD capacitor and nothing else or it isn't. There has been time enough to slice it open.
    – H2ONaCl
    Apr 30, 2019 at 21:05
  • @H2ONaCl: Given that Bloomberg again has some interesting story (Backdoor in Huwaei routers in 2011) which turned out to be wrong again (was a telnet interface which also worked only in the local network, i.e. an official front door) I rather suspect that they should be more careful of what they are writing about since otherwise they loose more and more credibility. Apr 30, 2019 at 21:14

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