Apple has begun designing its own servers partly because of suspicions that hardware is beingÂ intercepted before it getsÂ delivered to Apple, according to a report yesterdayÂ from The Information.
“Apple has long suspected that servers it ordered from the traditional supply chain were intercepted during shipping, with additional chips and firmware added to them by unknown third parties in order to make them vulnerable to infiltration, according to a person familiar with the matter,” the report said. “At one point, Apple even assigned people to take photographs of motherboards and annotate the function of each chip, explaining why it was supposed to be there. Building its own servers with motherboards it designed would be the most surefire way for Apple to prevent unauthorized snooping via extra chips.”
The Information’s source noted that “you canâ€™t go take an X-Ray of every computer that hits the floor. You want to make sure thereâ€™s no extracurricular activity.”
An Apple spokesperson declined to comment when contacted by Ars today.
The report comes as Apple fights the US government over whether it should have to write new softwareÂ to help investigators unlock anÂ iPhone used byÂ a terrorist. Beyond that specific case, Apple has also boosted the security of its products so that even Apple can’t decryptÂ them, and the company has takenÂ a strong stance against backdoors that undermine encryption.
Internet giants like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook have been designingÂ their own servers for years in order to improve efficiency. AppleÂ hasÂ used bothÂ Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure to run parts of iCloud, and recently the company began using the Google Cloud Platform as well.
But Apple wants to rely more on its own data centers, hence the project to design its own hardware. This isn’t just about security.Â VentureBeat reported last week that “Apple isnâ€™t happy with the fact AWS is not able to very quickly load photos and videos onto usersâ€™ iOS devices,” and it’s thus building more of its own infrastructure.
Although Apple built its own content delivery network, the company’sÂ efforts in designing its own hardware have been slow compared to other giant tech firms. Apple has projects underway “to build servers, networking equipment, and systems that could one day help developers to power their apps,”Â The Information report said. “But the software to operate that equipment and provide cloud services for hundreds of millions of iPhone owners has bedeviled the company.”