Public support for expert’s govt iPhone ban plan

By Jiang Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2014-7-29 0:33:02

A proposal to ban Chinese officials from using iPhones after Apple admitted their operating system (iOS) has "back doors" has gained public support, although others admit they would not stop using the smartphones. 

Fang Xingdong, a senior research fellow with the Zhejiang University of Media and Communications in Zhejiang Province, said Monday that staff working in government and military bodies and with key infrastructure should be prohibited from iPhone use. 

His proposal comes after Apple admitted that personal data, including contact lists, photos and text messages could be retrieved through proprietary technology, which they said was to allow diagnostic services through trusted computers, Reuters reported Friday.

"Public service personnel can use domestically manufactured phones since most use the Android system. It is relatively more open and has a larger amount of source code [than iOS], which can be used for security upgrades," Fang said. He also urged China to push forward its research and development of an independent and controllable China-produced smartphone operating system.

Fang's comments attracted a lot of attention online. According to several surveys conducted by Sina Weibo on Monday, more than 67 percent of over 4,200 respondents agreed with Fang and 61.6 percent supported the proposal because of the security loopholes.

"I agree with the proposal. The ban should be especially for staff working in confidential departments," wrote a Chinese diplomat on her verified Sina Weibo account.

However, in another Sina poll, only around 30 percent of more than 1,000 respondents said they would give up their own iPhone, and 58.2 percent believe their iPhone to be secure, since it does not contain confidential information.

Qin An, director of the Strategy Research Institute for China's Cyber Space, told the Global Times that Apple and the US government should both reflect on their security situations in the wake of the Apple revelations and the US government's use of Prism. 

"China needs to upgrade its own Internet security capacity," Qin said, "Risk management and control requires cooperation at an international level. It is in the global interest to protect cyber security."

Research fellow Jonathan Zdziarski showed how Apple can access a surprising amount of data for diagnostic services, Reuters reported. 

Users are not notified that the services are running and cannot disable them, Zdziarski said. There is no way for iPhone users to know what computers have previously been granted trusted status via the backup process or to block future connections, he noted.

Apple denied that it designed the back door to aid security or law enforcement services, saying it was to "troubleshoot technical issues."

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