Malware Halts Apple A12 CPU Production, iPhone Launch Delay Anticipated

August 8, 2018

Apple’s Far East component suppliers and product assembly partners are in full-gear putting the pieces of the company’s upcoming iPhone models together. And while we still have a good five-weeks to go until Apple officially unveils these new models, unlike last year, we’ve only come across one major report suggesting they may be delayed — either due to manufacturing or other production issues. 

That Barron’s report, citing “suspected issues with LED backlight leakage,” suggested that Apple’s all-new 6.1-inch LCD iPhone might be delayed into October or November while the company’s ultra-premium 5.8- and 6.5-inch OLED-equipped models should still launch within just weeks of their rumored September 12 unveiling.

Viral CPU Setback

Unfortunately, according to a statement published to its website, Apple’s mobile SoC manufacturer Taiwan Semiconductor Co. (TSMC) reported experiencing a major computer virus over the weekend which “infected the fabrication tools and computers” at its factories where Apple’s next-generation iPhone and iPad CPUs are being built.

While TSMC, in its statement, did not identify Apple or its A12 SoC as the product being built when the virus was discovered, given the timing of the incident and that TSMC is the exclusive manufacturer of Apple’s A12 chip, it’s only reasonable to assume.

TSMC says it’s still working to clean the malware off its equipment, and expects to be finished today. However it appears that the virus may have done more damage than TSMC imagined, momentarily crippling production and possibly delaying A12 production (and the launch of new iPhones).

“TSMC expects this incident to cause shipment delays and additional costs,” the company warned in its statement, adding that while the virus was more critical than previously thought, no “long-term difficulties” are expected and production should resume full-swing during the fourth quarter. 

“The Company is confident shipments delayed in third quarter will be recovered in the fourth quarter 2018,” TSMC said.

How Did This Happen?

As far as how the Taiwanese chip-maker’s advanced computer system was hacked in the first place, TSMC insisted that “This virus outbreak occurred due to misoperation during the software installation process for a new tool, which caused a virus to spread once the tool was connected to the Company’s computer network.” 

“Data integrity and confidential information was not compromised,” the company added, noting that “TSMC has taken actions to close this security gap and further strengthen security measures.”

While TSMC warns of possible iPhone shipping delays into the third quarter of this year, it’s not entirely clear from a time standpoint how badly the handsets will be delayed, if they even are. Luckily, we will know more in just a few weeks.

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