US Firms Fear Chinese Spies Will Hack Them With Power Cables

Kjetil Kolbjornsrud/ShutterstockKjetil Kolbjornsrud/ShutterstockCertain companies in the U.S. think cables are like the snakes in the grass they so closely resemble. Nikkei Asian Review reported today that U.S. firms have asked their power cable suppliers to shift production to Taiwan over concerns about Chinese spying.

Nikkei said that Lite-On Technology and Quanta Computer, which supply power cables to everyone from IBM to Facebook, are moving to Taiwan. A Lite-On exec said it made the move "at the request of American clients that cited cyberespionage risks from Beijing."

Quanta blamed three factors: "cybersecurity, tariffs and geopolitical risk." The latter two factors result from the somewhat troubled relationship between the U.S. and China--although President Donald Trump has said things are improving.

The security factor could prove the most serious. American companies don't want their networks compromised, and with mounting concern about equipment purchased from Chinese companies, it makes sense to ask suppliers to move elsewhere.

It would be relatively easy for a company to hide a chip in a cable to steal data without being detected. One researcher told Nikkei that China did exactly that by putting smartphone chargers in public spaces and collecting data from connected devices.

The report arrives shortly after researchers shared ways to gather data using malicious USB and Thunderbolt 3 cables. We joked at the time that it was starting to seem like we should never plug anything into our computers. With these new concerns about power cables, well, that's starting to seem like less of a joke.