IPhone chip maker TSMC fights virus at factories

Computer chip in circuit board

While the problem has been contained, and some factories have restarted production, most affected factories won't recover till at least Sunday.

A computer virus halted production at several Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) factories on Friday night, causing a severe disruption as the company ramps up chipmaking for new Apple iPhones.

It is not thought yet that the attack will delay the much-expected iPhone 9, thought to be under construction now before an expected reveal in September, but the news came as TSMC ups production in anticipation of the launch from its biggest customer. Data integrity and confidential information was not compromised.

Or it could be some form of corporate sabotage by another chip manufacturer or an enemy of Apple, with someone sneaking into TSMC's factory systems and slipping in the virus; think James Bond but duller and less casually misogynistic.

TSMC said the virus' spread didn't result from a hack, per se, but rather from human error during the installation of a new tool.

TSMC warned that the incident is likely to "cause shipment delays and additional costs". The details will be communicated with each customer individually over the next few days.

Shares in TSMC in Taipei were down 1% in late morning trading on Monday. TSMC - which supplies components to Apple iPhones, AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Broadcom and others - said malware spread across its systems after an infected sub-component of an unspecified tool was connected to its network.

He said he believed the virus was had not been created specifically to target TSMC and the company was not asked by anyone to pay a ransom.

TSMC's major 12-inch fabs - Fab 12 at the Hsinchu Science Park (HSP) and Fab 15 at the Central Taiwan Science Park (CTSP) - are among those impacted by the virus outbreak, according to industry sources.

TSMC previously said about 10% of its revenues would be generated from its most-advanced 7nm process technology in the third quarter of 2018, and the proportion would reach 20% in the fourth quarter, with an over 20% in all of 2018.

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