What will Apple say Now that China's New Anti-Terrorism Law is Set to Demand Back Doors in Software?
Last September we posted a report titled "Apple's iPhone 6 goes on Sale in China October 17 after Assuring China's Ministry that there's no Secret Backdoors." The report noted that "China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said it conducted "rigorous security testing" on the iPhone 6 and held talks with Apple on the issue, and that Apple shared with the ministry materials related to the potential security issues. Apple told the MIIT it had adopted new security measures in its latest smartphone operating system, iOS 8, and promised that it had never installed backdoors into its products or services to allow access for any government agency in any country." This is still Apple's position as we covered yesterday.
But in January of this year China's position changed. We reported at the time that "The Chinese government had adopted new regulations requiring companies that sell computer equipment to Chinese banks to turn over secret source code, submit to invasive audits and build so-called back doors into hardware and software, according to a copy of the rules obtained by foreign technology companies that do billions of dollars' worth of business in China." But the Government backed off this position temporarily, until today.
Reuters is reporting today that China's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, that technology companies have nothing to fear from China's new anti-terrorism law which aims to prevent and probe terror activities …" The draft anti-terrorism law has caused concern in Western capitals as it could require technology firms to install "back doors" in products or to hand over sensitive information such as encryption keys to the government.
The law is currently having another reading at the latest session of the standing committee for China's largely rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress, which ends on Sunday.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said he was "dissatisfied" with the U.S. position and hoped they respected China's law-making process and did not adopt "double standards". Hong added that "The draft of our anti-terrorism law mandates the obligation of telecommunications operators, Internet servers and service providers to assist public and state security organ in stopping and probing terrorist activities." The Chinese Foreign Ministry was careful to shy away from any formal verbiage regarding security backdoors. Yet the US Government remains skeptical.
Apple submitted an eight-page letter on Monday, the last day in which the UK's parliamentary subcommittee was accepting outside written evidence. Apple's CEO stated in that letter that "The creation of backdoors and intercept capabilities would weaken the protections built into Apple products and endanger all our customers. A key left under the doormat would not just be there for the good guys. The bad guys would find it too."
With Apple's CEO Tim Cook making it clear in an 60 Minutes interview last Sunday that China would soon be Apple's number one customer, what will he now say about China's possible back door security policy now? Will Cook bark as loud? Stay tuned as this is going to be an ongoing story for some time to come.