back to article Sure looks like Beijing stole blueprints from chip fab world's ASML

A former ASML worker accused of stealing trade secrets for advanced chip-making equipment from his employer is now suspected of spying for the Chinese government. Citing sources familiar with an internal ASML probe into the alleged theft, Bloomberg reports the employee, who is apparently based in China, had “potential” ties to …

  1. Black Label1
    Black Helicopters

    Warren Buffett tips

    Warren Buffett Just Dumped TSMC shares.

    It was either:

    1) Someone knew Taiwan would soon be invaded

    2) Someone knew homegrown China EUV tech was soon going to be announced

    By this news, I believe it is option 2). Not necessarily due to spying, tough. USA spy China way more.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Warren Buffett tips

      It’s hilarious how articles like this bring out the Winnie-the-Pooh sockpuppets. Good little CCP useful idiot!

      1. MDMAok

        Re: Warren Buffett tips

        Can someone explain to an old person, who only speaks English, what this Winnie the pooh comment means?

        1. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: Warren Buffett tips

          https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/07/china-bans-winnie-the-pooh-film-to-stop-comparisons-to-president-xi

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC - Re: Warren Buffett tips

        I'd rather like to hear your counterarguments not your insults. It's the debate of ideas that enriches us all.

        Any idiot can spit out insults towards anything but coming with valid, interesting, thought-provoking arguments requires some effort.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Warren Buffett tips

      I'm not sure the US has much ability to spy on China other than via satellite. AFAIK their spying efforts focus more on Europe.

      1. Nasu

        Re: Warren Buffett tips

        The New York Times:

        C.I.A. Admits to Losing Spies in China

        Oct 7, 2022

        ____

        New York Times:

        Killing C.I.A. Informants, China Crippled U.S. Spying Operations

        May 20, 2018

        ___

        Daily Mail:

        CIA admits its spies were executed by Iran and China after communications breech

        Oct 5, 2022

        ____

        The Hill:

        CIA admits to losing dozens of spies around the world

        Oct 5, 2021

        ____

        Business Insider:

        How China Found CIA Spies and Executed Them

        Aug 16, 2018

        ____

        Foreign Policy:

        China's Secret War for U.S. Data Blew American Spies' Cover

        Dec 21, 2021

        ____

        Foreign Policy:

        Botched CIA Communications System Helped Blow Cover of Chinese Spies working for CIA

        Aug 15, 2019

        ____

        The Guardian:

        China 'dismantled' CIA spying operations and killed Spies

        May 20, 2018

    3. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      Re: Warren Buffett tips

      Well, what exactly does China have that's worth "spying" on? (I.e. tech secrets worth stealing.)

      1. TonyJ
        Joke

        Re: Warren Buffett tips

        "...Well, what exactly does China have that's worth "spying" on? (I.e. tech secrets worth stealing.)..."

        Silly! All the IP they've previously stolen...

        1. Nasu

          Re: Warren Buffett tips

          GOOGLE

          China leads the world in 37 out of 44 critical technologies,

      2. Black Label1
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Warren Buffett tips

        Since China told researchers to disclose vulnerabilities to government first, it seems like a lot of 0days.

        NSA was recently caught snooping Solaris server at a Chinese university.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Warren Buffett tips

        5G technology that is years ahead?

        All the tech and corrosion treatments to make Thorium reactors happen?

        They have smart people too..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Warren Buffett tips

          China's most intelligent people are in Taiwan, not the mainland. The mainland is just communist bandits.

          1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

            Re: Warren Buffett tips

            Yes, all one billion of them, 10% of the planet, bandits and communists down to the last child. Please do share with us some more of your incredibly nuanced views.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: Warren Buffett tips

              Yeah. Obviously it would be an error to assume the number of productive researchers in a nation is exactly proportional to its population, given the large disparities around the world in education, opportunity, intellectual freedom, and so forth. But China has a ton of people, and a ton of universities and corporate R&D departments. It's absurd to believe there isn't a great deal of primary research happening there, and of course many Chinese researchers publish research, so there's plenty of empirical support too.

          2. PhilipN Silver badge

            Re: Warren Buffett tips

            Friend of mine studied high-end science at Stanford long long ago. One of the main textbooks was written by a guy from Shanghai.

            But tell us he cribbed all his work - go on. I dare you.

      4. Nasu

        Re: Warren Buffett tips

        Google :

        China leads the world in 37 out of 44 critical technologies,

      5. Tubz Silver badge

        Re: Warren Buffett tips

        They are every good at weaponizing biological organisms, just not very good at containment !

  2. Fazal Majid

    Fairly obvious consequence

    This was guaranteed to happen. The Dutch intelligence services are pretty competent (remember when they had hacked into the security webcams of the Russian troll farm that was trying to influence US elections?) and I’m sure they have intercepted far more attempts that we don’t know about.

    1. PhilipN Silver badge

      Re: Fairly obvious consequence

      I assume the USA already has it all anyway.

  3. jantangring

    Jordan Robertson!

    One of the Bloomberg reporters is Jordan Robertson. He published an obviously fake news story about a china manipulated Supermicro server four years ago. The story is still up om Bloomberg without a correction.

    Robertson has published 36 stories about cybersec since the fake China story.

    He even has it nailed on top of his Twitter feed with no comment.

    https://twitter.com/jordanr1000

    Noting particularly sus about the ASML spy story per se.

    But a strange choice by Bloomberg to keep using Jordan Robertson and not in some form retracts the old story!

  4. DS999 Silver badge

    The blueprints will get them about 5% of the way there

    This would be like if I stole blueprints for a nuclear reactor. Thanks to the blueprints I might know how to put all the parts together to build one, but even if I had an unlimited budget and ignoring stuff like getting fuel rods having all the required parts made out of the exact right alloys and to the necessary tolerances would take years before I had something that worked half as well as a proper reactor.

    Now multiply that difficulty by 100, because the tolerances of of a modern EUV scanner are in the microns and nanometers, the materials are far more exotic and in many many cases have only ONE source in the entire world, and when that one source is based in the US, EU or Japan as most are they will not sell to China.

    1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      Re: The blueprints will get them about 5% of the way there

      It's probably not an ACTUAL blueprint. So the data will also specify materials, parts, etc.

      And China has the budget to do almost anything. Can you back up your statements about the rarity and non-substitutability of the parts used?

      1. blackcat Silver badge

        Re: The blueprints will get them about 5% of the way there

        There are supporting technologies and machines that are needed, not just the imaging machine. Making the photomasks has been a major issue to overcome. A number of the supporting tech was developed in Japan as part of their EUV attempts.

      2. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: The blueprints will get them about 5% of the way there

        It won't specify materials and parts because ASML does not make those, they get them from other suppliers. You'd need to steal information from hundreds of companies to be able to build an EUV scanner and then figure out how to duplicate manufacturing of something that often required them years to perfect.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The blueprints will get them about 5% of the way there

        Indeed. The key invention that enabled them to do what they do is the light source. The rest will, of course, also need some supply chain creativity/spying, but the core is the way they generate the light so I assume that's where they will focus their efforts.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: The blueprints will get them about 5% of the way there

          Not just being able to generate it. Inside the device there are at least a dozen mirrors that reflect the EUV light to and fro to focus it at the reticle mask. Figuring out how to make mirrors that reflect EUV was not easy I imagine, as they contain over 100 layers of various materials have to be flat to within a single atom. The example ASML gave was that if the mirror was the size of Germany the tallest mountain would be 1mm in height.

          There is a LOT of technology that has been worked on for at least two decades that finally came together to make production volumes of EUV chips economic to produce. China won't get there quickly, though they can probably obtain some limited capability for producing chips matching TSMC's leading edge before the end of the decade if they are willing to make sacrifices in terms of how economically they can be produced and in what numbers. For military applications being limited to only producing a few wafers per day and chips costing $50K each might be fine, but obviously that won't help companies like Huawei compete in consumer or corporate markets.

          Its at least possible they could make a breakthrough in much higher NA DUV lenses or somehow make ebeam economic at mass production volumes, so I doubt they will put on all their eggs into trying to copy ASML's EUV technology.

  5. Mark White

    Creative naming

    Just make sure the next couple of iterations (foremost ultraviolet lithography (FUV) and greatest ultraviolet lithography (GUV)) safe.

    1. MacroRodent

      Re: Creative naming

      I think the next step would be X-rays.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Creative naming

      Then Trump's favorite, Huuuugest Ultraviolet Lithography. Will we ever get to Incredible Ultraviolet Lithography? I can't believe it.

      1. MetalScythe

        Re: Creative naming

        Tremendous Ultraviolet Lithography

  6. atropine blackout

    Hard isn't impossible

    China has long had a reasonably capable optical industry producing, for example, lasers and high efficiency dielectric mirrors, both of which you *really* need for EUV.

    While pretty much every part of an EUV-based system is eye-wateringly hard to design, build and run , I can't really see why Chinese engineers wouldn't eventually get there.

    That being the case, you'd imagine that any little 'how to' tidbits half-inched from ASML might be useful.

    1. PhilipN Silver badge

      Re: Hard isn't impossible

      When Nokia was king cheap knock-offs from Shenzhen with all the latest features duplicated would appear within three weeks at Sing Tat Plaza in Mongkok, Hong Kong.

      Nowhere near cutting edge semiconductor technology but it was a start and that was 20 years ago.

      Today Shenzhen has Huawei.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hard isn't impossible

      The crafty element is how ASML produces the light for exposure, that took decades to develop to a level that it could be used in production. I don't think the rest would pose many challenges once they had the details for that, so I suspect that's the exact thing that ASML will protect as their crown jewels. Because it's one specific component it's relatively easy to containerise that data and protect it, but the usual security imbalance exists which is never in favour of the defenders: they only have to fail once :(.

      That said, I would lace the place with fakes.

  7. Anonymous Anti-ANC South African Coward Bronze badge

    Spy VS Spy for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k

    Ahhh, a trip down memory lane after seeing this :

    If at first you don’t succeed, spy, spy again

    Still have fond memories of playing the white spy and blowing up the black spy at every turn...

    We need a Spy vs Spy icon ---->

  8. Binraider Silver badge

    Let's be honest, that company was an absolutely obvious target for industrial espionage.

    Trouble is, innocent-until-caught?

  9. Nasu

    China leads in 37 of 44 critical research techologies.

    So

    Who are they STEALING FROM?..

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