ASML Admits Data Breach

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The chip equipment manufacturing giant has confirmed it is investigating a ‘recent’ breach of its systems

ASML, the largest manufacturer of microchip manufacturing equipment, has acknowledged its systems were breached in a “recent” attack, but said no “valuable” files appear to have been accessed.

“ASML Holding recently discovered unauthorised access to a limited portion of its IT systems,” the company said in a statement released on Sunday, adding that it “took immediate steps to contain the breach and is conducting an ongoing investigation”.

Hacker-c-thailerderden10-Shutterstock-2014

The company, based in Veldhoven in the Netherlands, said the breach was discovered shortly after it occurred, and said a “limited” amount of data seemed to have been accessed.

“ASML has not found any evidence that valuable files, either from ASML or our customers and suppliers, have been compromised,” the company stated, saying it could not be “certain” of the hackers’ identity.

The company is the world’s largest manufacturer of photolithography equipment, and counts Intel, Samsung and TSMC among its customers. ASML said its high profile subjects it to cyber-attacks.

The incident was first reported on Friday by Dutch technology news website Tweakers.net, which cited anonymous sources within ASML as saying that Chinese state hackers were responsible for the intrusion.

Cyber-espionage

The report didn’t indicate when the attack took place, only indicating it seems to have happened either last year or earlier this year, and ASML didn’t clarify this point.

State-backed hackers have become involved in increasingly significant incidents of industrial espionage, according to recent reports.

For instance, secret US government documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden earlier this year indicated that US officials believe Chinese spies stole “many terabytes of data” relating to the US’ F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as well as other top-secret US military projects.

The theft of the fighter plans was reported in 2013, but this is the first time that the incident has been confirmed by top-secret documents from within the US government itself. The Chinese government is believed to have used the plans to augment its own military aircraft.

More recently, an internal investigation by Gemalto, the world’s largest maker of SIM cards, concluded that the US and UK governments were behind attacks in 2010 and 2011 intended to steal encryption codes.

The US and UK link to this breach had previously been indicated by documents provided by Snowden.

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