Apple CEO Tim Cook Meet's China Vice-President Ma Wai to discuss iCloud Hacking
Apple's CEO Tim Cook meets a senior government official in Beijing to discuss the iCloud hacking scandalCN News

Apple's CEO is reported to have met a high-ranking government official in Beijing to discuss claims the Chinese government was behind an attack on Apple's iCloud storage service.

Following evidence emerging that people trying to access Apple's iCloud login page in China were being redirected to a fake login site in an attempt to steal information, Apple's CEO travelled to China to discuss the matter with Ma Kai, one of China's four vice premiers.

According to the news agency Xiahuanet:

Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai and Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday exchanged views on protection of users' information during their meeting in Zhongnanhai, the central authority's seat. They also exchanged views on strengthening cooperation in information and communication fields.

Details of the attack first emerged on a blog post published by Greatfire.org, a group that conducts research on Chinese internet censorship, in which it accused the Chinese government of staging a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack on Apple's iCloud.

China, as usual, strongly denied the suggestion it was compromising the security of Apple's iCloud system, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying saying China is "resolutely opposed" to hacking.

Apple Fix

In an apparent direct response to the attacks, Apple has issued a short-term fix for the problem by redirecting traffic to a new server. However, as many security experts have pointed out, this is not a long-term solution.

Apple also updated its iCloud security support page, saying it is "aware of intermittent organised network attacks using insecure certificates to obtain user information".

The company is at pains to point out that Apple's iCloud servers were never compromised and the attacks "don't impact iCloud sign in on iOS devices or Macs running OS X Yosemite using the Safari browser."

While the new support page doesn't mention China specifically, the only other language the page is translated into is Chinese.

Bottom Line

Apple's quick fix of redirecting traffic to another server could easily be circumvented by the Chinese government if it so desired, and the fact Tim Cook travelled to China to meet with a high-ranking government official shows just how seriously the company is taking this matter.

Apple just last week launched its latest iPhones in China following a delay due to security issues raised by regulators in China. The delay caused Apple's growth in China to stall in the last quarter, up just 1% year-on-year and down 3% compared to the previous quarter.

While negotiations with the Chinese government will have to be handled with delicacy, Cook is clearly eager to stamp out any suggestion that its iCloud service lacks security in a country which is increasingly becoming one of the company's most important markets.

China is the company's third biggest market, behind the US and Europe generating $5.78 billion (£3.6bn) in revenue in the three months to the end of September.