TSMC contains virus attack on fabs

‘RECOVERY IN PROGRESS’::The company denied reports that shutdowns at three of its fabs were caused by a hacker attack, but declined to elaborate on the incident

By Chen Cheng-hui  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Aug 05, 2018 - Page 1

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, yesterday said it has contained a virus attack on some of its fabs and expects operations to return to normal in a day.

“A number of TSMC fab tools were infected by a computer virus on the evening of Aug. 3,” TSMC said in a statement.

“TSMC has contained the problem and found a solution, and recovery of the affected tools is in progress,” it added.

The company’s remarks came after local Chinese-language media earlier yesterday reported that the Hsinchu-based chipmaker suspended some production lines at its plants in Taiwan.

Some media outlets reported that the shutdowns were caused by a hacker attack on the plants’ automated material handling systems.

However, “rumors of a hacker attack are incorrect,” TSMC said in the statement.

The company dominates the world’s “pure-play” wafer foundry business with a market share of more than 50 percent, according to market information advisory firm IC Insights.

TSMC operates three 12-inch, four 8-inch and one 6-inch wafer plant in Taiwan, a 12-inch and an 8-inch plant in China, and an 8-inch plant in the US.

Three plants — Fab 12 at the Hsinchu Science Park (新竹科學園區), Fab 15 at the Central Taiwan Science Park (中部科學園區) and Fab 14 at the Southern Taiwan Science Park (南部科學園區) — came under attack by the virus, local media reported, citing industry sources.

TSMC did not elaborate on the incident — such as the kind of virus involved or its source — nor did it provide an estimate for potential financial losses.

However, the company confirmed that the degree of infection varied from plant to plant.

“Some fabs returned to normal [operations] in a short period of time, and we expect the other fabs to return to normal in one day,” TSMC said in the statement.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs said it contacted immediately the company to understand the situation.

It said that the Industrial Development Bureau would help the company and the science parks if they request assistance, the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) reported.

TSMC last quarter began mass production of chips using the advanced 7-nanometer process technology mainly at Fab 15. The chips are to be used in artificial intelligence applications, graphics processing units, 5G telecom equipment and application processors.

The company on July 19 said the 7-nanometer chips would account for 10 percent of its overall revenue this quarter, 20 percent next quarter and more than 20 percent next year.

As the industry enters peak season this quarter, it remains to be seen if the virus attack would affect TSMC’s chip shipments to its clients, including Apple Inc.

TSMC is a major chip supplier for Apple’s iPhones.

TSMC shares on Friday rose 1.02 percent to NT$247 in Taipei trading. They have risen 7.63 percent so far this year.

Additional reporting by Lisa Wang