Virus shuts down key iPhone chip supplier

TSMC expects to have all its factories back to normal by Monday but exact impact on supplies for new iPhone models is not yet known

(TSMC), the largest chip manufacturer in the world, was revealed to have been hit with a computer virus on Friday, resulting in temporary closure of several production factories and disruption of operations. Most of the affected systems were up and running again by Sunday afternoon, and the company said it expects a full recovery on Monday. Data integrity and confidential information was not compromised.

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. The chipmaker estimated that third-quarter revenue would be cut by about 3 percent from a previously forecast $8.45 billion to $8.55 billion, while gross margin would slip by about 1 percentage point.

In the meantime, the exact implications of the incident for Apple are unknown. The US company in the past has contracted chip foundries owned by Samsung Electronics, its rival in global mobile devices. An Apple spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

The incident comes weeks after TSMC cheered investors with a rosy outlook for smartphone demand in the latter half of the year.

"The Company is confident shipments delayed in third quarter will be recovered in the fourth quarter 2018, and maintains its forecast of high single-digit revenue growth for 2018 in US dollars given on July 19, 2018". Chief executive officer CC Wei had said sales would rise this year by a high single-digit percentage in United States dollar terms, down from an already reduced projection of about 10%.

It attributed the incident to "misoperation during the software installation process for a new tool" without elaborating further.

The cause of the issues was a computer virus which wasn't introduced by a hacker, said TSMC.

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