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Technology

Taiwan probes alleged cyberattack on top Apple supplier

Blog post on 'dark net' claims ransomware demand against Quanta Computer

Hackers claim to have stolen blueprints of Apple products from main MacBook assembler Quanta Computer. (Photo by Yuki Kohara) 

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's top investigation authority on Wednesday said it has initiated a preliminary inquiry into an alleged cyberattack on Apple's main MacBook assembler, Quanta Computer.

The probe comes after claims of a so-called ransomware attack -- in which hackers try to steal confidential information and demand money for its safe return -- involving blueprints for Apple products.

"We are aware of an alleged cyberattack involving Quanta and we are taking an initial step to look into and understand the nature of the incident," a spokesperson of the Investigation Bureau under the Ministry of Justice told Nikkei Asia. "But we have not yet opened a case and launched an official probe."

A group called REvil said it has "large quantities of confidential drawings and gigabytes of personal data with several major brands," according to its blog post on the "dark net," obtained and viewed by Nikkei Asia. "We recommend that Apple buy back the available data by May 1."

Quanta, a Taiwanese notebook and server maker that also supplies HP, Google and Facebook, confirmed a cyberattack on its servers.

"We've reported to and kept seamless communications with the relevant law enforcement and data protection authorities concerning recent abnormal activities observed," the company said in a press statement. "There's no material impact on the company's business operation."

Quanta declined to confirm if the cyberattacks were ransomware and if confidential product information was stolen.

The incident came to light just after Apple launched a series of new iPad and iMac computers on Tuesday, powered by its in-house M1 processor. The iMac is assembled by Quanta.

Quanta is the latest victim of cyberattack in the tech supply chain. Last month, the world's No. 5 PC maker Acer was said to have suffered ransomware attacks by REvil. The Taiwanese PC maker only acknowledged there had been an "abnormal situation" and that it had come under attack.

Cases of cyberattacks on the tech supply chain have been growing. Key iPhone assembler Foxconn, iPad and MacBook maker Compal Electronics, and the world's biggest industrial computer maker Advantech last year all suffered attacks.

In 2020, there were 250 ransomware attacks globally, according to cybersecurity firm BlackFog. For the first three months of 2021, BlackFog uncovered 67 ransomware cyberattacks, up nearly 60% from a year-ago period.

A business is attacked by a cybercriminal every 11 seconds, according to BlackFog, which said it expects the number of ransomware attacks to increase and become more sophisticated and disruptive.

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