The Chinese military surreptitiously inserted tiny microchips no larger than single grains of rice into servers on local assembly lines in order to gain access to data networks run by U.S. government agencies ranging from the Department of Defense to the Central Intelligence Agency, according to an explosive investigation from Bloomberg.
A three-year investigation by U.S. government officials found that servers assembled for startup Elemental Technologies by San Jose-based company Supermicro reportedly contained tiny microchips "inserted at factories run by manufacturing subcontractors in China," Bloomberg reported.
The chips, independently discovered by engineers at Amazon and Apple in 2015, purportedly allowed hackers to "create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines," per Bloomberg, a Trojan horse that gave hackers a direct line into any sensitive network.
Elemental servers assembled by Supermicro are "found in Department of Defense data centers, the CIA’s drone operations, and the onboard networks of Navy warships," per Bloomberg, and the revelation prompted DoD officials at the time to request a small group of technologists "to think about creating commercial products that could detect hardware implants."
"Public documents, including the company’s own promotional materials, show that the servers have been used inside Department of Defense data centers to process drone and surveillance-camera footage, on Navy warships to transmit feeds of airborne missions, and inside government buildings to enable secure videoconferencing," Bloomberg reports. "NASA, both houses of Congress, and the Department of Homeland Security have also been customers."
News of the years-long infiltration of secure networks through the lowest levels of the global industrial supply chain — China still manufactures the majority of the raw tech behind the world's mobile phones and personal computers — reflects not just a coup for the Chinese intelligence community, but an alarming vulnerability of the U.S. industrial base.
Technologist Joe Grand put it best in an interview with Bloomberg: “Having a well-done, nation-state-level hardware implant surface would be like witnessing a unicorn jumping over a rainbow ... Hardware is just so far off the radar, it’s almost treated like black magic.”
August Cole, a coauthor of the novel "Ghost Fleet" — which features an eerily similar scenario involving Chinese chips hidden inside an F-35 that ruin its stealth capabilities, wrote on Twitter, "Hey Siri, what is my #ghostfleet moment of the day?"
(From left to right) Chris Osman, Chris McKinley, Kent Kroeker, and Talon Burton
At least four American veterans were among a group of eight men arrested by police in Haiti earlier this week for driving without license plates and possessing an arsenal of weaponry and tactical gear.
Police in Port-au-Prince arrested five Americans, two Serbians, and one Haitian man at a police checkpoint on Sunday, according to The Miami-Herald. The men told police they were on a "government mission" but did not specify for which government, according to The Herald.
They also told police that "their boss was going to call their boss," implying that someone high in Haiti's government would vouch for them and secure their release, Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR.
What they were actually doing or who they were potentially working for remains unclear. A State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose they were aware that Haitian police arrested a "group of individuals, including some U.S. citizens," but declined to answer whether the men were employed by or operating under contract with the U.S. government.
A top Senate Republican and fierce ally of President Donald Trump reportedly exploded at Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan recently about the U.S. military's plans to withdraw all troops from Syria by the end of April.
"That's the dumbest f******g idea I've ever heard," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reportedly replied when Shanahan confirmed the Trump administration still plans to complete the Syria withdrawal by April 30.
Later, Graham told Shanahan, "I am now your adversary, not your friend."
Members of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and 1st Transportation Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, prepare a seven-ton Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTRV) to be lifted by a CH-53E Super Stallion at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., on Jan. 16, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Clare J. McIntire)
If you are in the market for any size of military surplus vehicle, keep an eye on GovPlanet. The online auction house is about to start selling U.S. Navy and Marine Corps surplus M1161 ITV Growlers and seven-ton Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement trucks.
Airmen with the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron pump water from a flooded common living area to an area with less impact on the local population, Dec. 13, 2009, in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force/ Staff Sgt. Sharon Singer)