Chinese hackers sneakily stole secrets from Dutch chip company

Employees work on the production line of silicon wafer at a factory in Jiaxing City, China
(Image credit: Wang Gang/China News Service via Getty Images)

Chinese hackers were able to infiltrate the network of Dutch semiconductor maker NXP and steal the designs of some of itschips.

A report from Dutch daily newspaper NRC (via Tom’s Hardware) claims Chimera, a hacking group with links to China and a history of targeting semiconductor companies, had access to NXP’s networks from late 2017 to early 2020.

However despite Chimera’s long-term exposure to sensitive intellectual property information, NXP isn’t too bothered about the attackers going on to replicate its chips.

Chinese hacking group breaches NXP

NXP only became aware of the hack after the same hacking group also targeted KLM Airlines subsidiary Transavia in a similar manner. Again, Chimera has been reported to have targeted airline companies in the past, too.

It is believed that the hackers got into NXP’s network by using credentials that had previously been leaked and using brute force attacks.

The semiconductor has not publicly announced the attack, but it has confirmed that it took place. This is because it’s not particularly bothered and doesn’t think it’s something the public needs to know about – because the data is so complex, NXP doesn’t think hackers could replicate its designs anyway.

Following the attack, the Dutch chipmaker has now taken measures to tighten its security in order to prevent future and more serious attacks.

While it looks like there have been no serious direct consequences on this occasion, indirect consequences could continue to play out.

NXP, for example, provides secure elements for the iPhone including the parts that underpin Apple Pay. Apple is a company that plays its cards very close to the chest, so such a leak could have an impact on the deal between the two companies in the future.

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Craig Hale

With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!