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. 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.
Security isn’t Apple’s only motivation — the company has expressed unhappiness with Amazon Web Services and, according to VentureBeat, is working on a plan to build its own in-house data centers and software to run them. Currently, services like iTunes are mostly outsourced to other providers like Amazon or Microsoft’s competing Azure. Apple is far from the first company to take steps like this; Google publicly announced it would begin encrypting all data that travels through its data centers after information leaked that the NSA had tapped undersea cables to spy on Google’s data centers from the inside, where data was once unencrypted.
Whether or not this approach can actually lock out groups like the NSA is an incredibly difficult question. Apple could contract with companies like Foxconn to build hardware to its own specifications, but there’s no guarantee that the NSA wouldn’t find a different method of penetrating Apple’s security. A government agency that’s gone to the trouble of building infrastructure to intercept, bug, and re-ship network equipment and servers is obviously one that’s willing to spend top dollar to guarantee results. Apple can make the game more difficult, certainly, but can it close the loopholes altogether?
This rumor isn’t going to be well-received by the government, which has already indicated it believes Apple’s behavior is just shy of treasonous in various court filings related to the San Bernardino shooting. Building its own data centers and designing its own hardware from the ground up, at least partly for the express purpose of locking the government out, isn’t going to sit well with the folks in Washington. (Read full Apple may design its own servers to avoid government snooping | ExtremeTech)