IAITAM: Supermicro Microchip Hack Could Have Been Prevented If More Companies Followed Rules Like Apple

October 11, 2018

CANTON, Ohio--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct 11, 2018--Could the insertion of grain-of-rice-sized microchips in servers headed for Amazon, Apple, other leading companies, the Department of Defense, Congress, and Homeland Security been detected and exposed earlier? Not only could this have happened, but it should have as a result of adhering to good Information Technology Asset Management (ITAM) procedures, according to the International Association of IT Asset Managers (IAITAM).

IAITAM noted that Apple alone appears to have applied at least some proper ITAM practices for equipment acquisition and detected problems with the Super Micro Computer Inc. (Supermicro) servers containing the tiny microchips installed for hacking and spying purposes. The fact that Apple spotted the issue in 2015 and stopped using Supermicro servers shows that ITAM procedures work … even in the case of a nearly microscopic flaw in the IT assets in question.

IAITAM President and CEO Barbara Rembiesa said: “Make no mistake about it:This was a preventable hack and Apple deserves credit for doing some things right here.The global supply chain is complex, but companies do not get a pass because of that when it comes to managing the IT assets that they use or sell to others.Companies need to follow proper Information Technology Asset Management practices to make sure that every piece of equipment is needed, configured and functioning as intended, and is monitored on a continuing basis after use starts.The Supermicro scandal shows that even the biggest companies and government agencies don’t do their homework when it comes to the handling of new IT equipment.”

Bloomberg was the first to report that unauthorized microchips have been inserted into motherboards bound for servers sold by California-based company Supermicro. According to the news account, the secret microchips are capable of altering server code, downloading software to get through passwords and other encryptions. Three years after the microchips were originally discovered in 2015 by Apple, no technology for consumers to detect the microchips has been invented. The microchips, which have been linked to Chinese interests, are meant to steal corporate secrets and breach government networks.

Rembiesa highlighted three notable moments on the Supermicro timeline:

Rembiesa noted: “Fortunately, there are breadcrumbs on this trail and they can be followed.Assuming proper documentation procedures have been followed, authorities should be able to use invoices, shipping manifests, and other documents to help with their missions.Proper documentation is a best practice of a well-run ITAM program.”

How could ITAM help prevent a Supermicro-like situation in the future?

ITAM involves a detailed process that focuses on optimal acquisitions of hardware, software, and any other IT asset an organization buys or leases. Stages of this acquisition process include justifying the purchase, managing negotiations with vendors and assembling vital documents, such as the terms and conditions, among others.

A key part of the process is the testing of the hardware or software. This stage determines whether the asset is appropriate and compatible. At some point during their relationship with Supermicro, Apple determined that the servers were inappropriate and incompatible. Apple’s ITAM staff identified Supermicro as a threat during the “testing” section of the process. They stopped buying from Supermicro and also returned the products already purchased.

Beyond the acquisition process, Rembiesa said that IT Asset Managers should be immediately consulted in a situation like this because of their use of discovery data within an organization’s IT Asset Repository. This process helps IT Asset Managers identify exactly where hardware is located with an organization, cutting down immensely on the time needed to find flawed or sabotaged pieces of equipment. The quicker the hardware is identified and then “unplugged” from an organization’s environment, the less damage the sabotaged item or items can do.


The International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers, Inc., is the professional association for individuals and organizations involved in any aspect of IT Asset Management, Software Asset Management (SAM), Hardware Asset Management, Mobile Asset Management, IT Asset Disposition and the lifecycle processes supporting IT Asset Management in organizations and industry across the globe. IAITAM certifications are the only IT Asset Management certifications that are recognized worldwide. For more information, visit www.iaitam.org, or the IAITAM mobile app on Google Play or the iTunes App Store.

View source version on businesswire.com:https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20181011005627/en/

CONTACT: International Association of IT Asset Managers (IAITAM)


Alex Frank




SOURCE: International Association of IT Asset Managers (IAITAM)

Copyright Business Wire 2018.

PUB: 10/11/2018 11:29 AM/DISC: 10/11/2018 11:29 AM


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