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Photo: Hitoshi Yamada/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Frustrated Apple executives are getting even more categorical in their denial of a Bloomberg Businessweek story saying that Apple was among nearly 30 U.S. companies that had computer equipment compromised by China, which inserted malicious chips during the manufacturing process.

Why it matters: This fight is going to get bigger. Apple yesterday wrote to the House and Senate commerce committees to say that its internal investigations "directly contradict every consequential assertion made in the article — some of which ... were based on a single anonymous source."

  • "Apple has never found malicious chips, 'hardware manipulations' or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server. We never alerted the FBI to any security concerns like those described in the article, nor has the FBI ever contacted us about such an investigation."
  • "[W]hile the story was being reported, we spoke with Bloomberg’s reporters and editors and ... methodically dispelled the often-shifting nature of their claims. ... [T]he gravity and magnitude of the claims seemed to be undermined by their uncertainty around key details."

George Stathakopoulos, Apple's vice president of information security, wrote to the committees: "I will be available to brief your staff this week to further address the information we’ve offered."

  • Apple has some high-profile backing: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Saturday that it has "no reason to doubt" the companies' denials. Britain’s national cyber security agency said the same on Friday.

Bloomberg reissued its earlier response: "Bloomberg Businessweek's investigation is the result of more than a year of reporting, during which we conducted more than 100 interviews.

  • "Seventeen individual sources, including government officials and insiders at the companies, confirmed the manipulation of hardware and other elements of the attacks. ... We stand by our story and are confident in our reporting and sources."

The takeaway: Ben Thompson writes in his Stratechery today: "[A]t this point it is very difficult to assume the story was correct. I suspect there is something there, but that Bloomberg got some very important details wrong."

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Go deeper

Cyber war scales up with new Microsoft hack

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Last week's revelation of a new cyberattack on thousands of small businesses and organizations, on top of last year's SolarWinds hack, shows we've entered a new era of mass-scale cyber war.

Why it matters: In a world that's dependent on interlocking digital systems, there's no escaping today's cyber conflicts. We're all potential victims even if we're not participants.

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A year after the coronavirus abruptly shut down much of the country, Americans are watching for a clear signal of when the pandemic will be over — and most won't be ready to ditch the masks and social distancing until they get it, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

The big picture: The poll found that more Americans are expecting the outbreak to be over sooner rather than later, as vaccinations ramp up throughout the country — but that very few are ready to end the precautions that have upended their lives.

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