Apple isn’t paranoid; the NSA has been known to intercept shipments to install snooping devices.
Apple’s concerns about the government accessing data on its encrypted devices goes beyond the current spat with the FBI over iPhone unlocking.
The Cupertino giant may now be developing its own servers so it can exercise more control over encryption and security.
Apple believes that third parties may have access to its new servers before they are delivered, according to a report cited by 9to5Mac.
The servers could be “intercepted during shipping, with additional chips and firmware added to them by unknown third parties in order to make them vulnerable to infiltration,” 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,” the report explained. “Building its own servers with motherboards it designed would be the most surefire way for Apple to prevent unauthorized snooping via extra chips.”
In addition to Apple’s desire to exercise tighter control over server components, other reports have surfaced over the past few days that speculate as to the specifics of Apple’s server building strategy.
VentureBeat last week pointed to the existence of an internal effort code-named “Project McQueen” that would see Apple build more of its own data centers around the world.
But the company also seems to be moving in the opposite direction; just last week, it reportedly inked a deal to host some of its iCloud services with Google Cloud.
Apple has long relied on vendors to supply the storage for iCloud.
It even teamed up with China Telecom to store user data on Chinese servers in order to improve the reliability of iCloud in the massive Chinese market.
That move was noteworthy because a number of tech companies have avoided storing data in China due to censorship and privacy concerns.
China isn’t the only country suspected of snooping: an NSA program specifically developed to intercept shipments of electronic devices and plant snooping devices on them was uncovered in 2013.
So whether or not the rumors are true, Apple has reason to be concerned about the government’s ability to access data stored on any server it does not build itself.