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Apple Phones: China Denies Ban but Raises Security Concerns

Apple CEO Cook attended the iPhone 15 Pro new product launch event held at Apple headquarters in California. (September 12, 2023)
Apple CEO Cook attended the iPhone 15 Pro new product launch event held at Apple headquarters in California. (September 12, 2023)

On Wednesday (September 13), China publicly denied for the first time that it restricted people’s use of Apple phones but emphasized that Apple mobile phones have security risks.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular press conference on September 13 that China has not issued laws, regulations, and policy documents prohibiting the purchase and use of foreign brand mobile phones such as Apple. “But we have indeed noticed recently that some media have exposed Apple phone-related security incidents.”

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However, Mao Ning did not elaborate on the “related security incidents.” Still, she emphasized that the Chinese government attaches great importance to network and information security and treats domestic and foreign-funded enterprises equally. She said that all mobile phone companies operating in China must strictly abide by China’s “Data Security Law”, “Personal Information Protection Law” and other laws and regulations to “protect consumers’ data stored in their mobile phones from being stolen by any individual or organization.”, to ensure information security.”

Previously, Chinese media reported that Apple launched an iOS 15.7.9 version update for some older iPhones on the 12th, mainly to fix a security vulnerability numbered CVE-2023-41064.

Reports say that if this security vulnerability is not fixed in time, the iPhone may be implanted with spyware called Pegasus, which can steal personal information, open the microphone to record conversations, and even record text.

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Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that China banned government workers from using Apple phones, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter. Some government workers said they were told not to use iPhones at work. The report sent Apple’s stock price tumbling, the most in a month.

Notices circulated on the Internet to government workers and employees of state-owned enterprises require them to use domestically produced mobile phones. China’s historically harsh internet censors have yet to remove posts about restrictions on the use of Apple phones.

In China, calls to restrict the use of foreign technology by government workers are not new. For at least the past decade, China has discouraged officials from using foreign cell phones and required government agencies to replace American computer servers and other equipment with domestic equipment.

The United States has also imposed restrictions on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and imposed restrictions on the export of advanced American semiconductor technology to China. Some state governments in the United States also restrict government employees from using the Chinese social media TikTok.

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