Apple opposes a new British law that is expected to mean Apple may be asked to provide authorities access to encrypted data, because it will create vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit, according to Chief Executive Tim Cook on Wednesday.
Last week the UK unveiled a new surveillance bill that would place obligations on service providers to help intercept data and hack suspects’ devices, which would possibly undermine the end-to-end encryption used by services such as Apple’s iMessage protocol.
Speaking to students in Dublin, Ireland, Cook said Apple would have to create a back door in the encryption and that this would expose data to hackers.
“If you leave a back door in the software, there is no such thing as a back door for good guys only”, Cook said. “If there is a back door, anyone can come in the back door”.
“We believe that the safest approach for the world is to encrypt end to end with no back door. We think that protects the most people”, he said.
Industry experts say that some of the bill exceeds powers available to security services in the USA, and many have said it’s an assault on privacy. The UK government meanwhile says the new law is necessary to keep the country safe.
The head of Britain’s spy agency GCHQ said this week that the notion the bill demands a ban on encryption, encourage vulnerabilities and required backdoors to allow monitoring were myths.
“We have never said this and we do not want this”, said GCHQ’s Robert Hannigan.
“All the government is saying is information needed for national security and serious crime purposes should not be beyond the lawful, warranted reach of the state when the need arises”.
Cook on the other hand says that if the encryption in Apple products was undermined, the criminals the UK government seeks to intercept will simply use other encryption tools.
“If you close down the major companies from using encryption, the bad guys aren’t going to stop using encryption. They are just going to go to another source”.
Cook has not yet said if Apple will cooperate with the UK government. Though he did say parts of the bill as it stands are ambiguous. “The bill itself, it’s not so clear from the reading of it. It’s a little vague”, he said.
Larry Banks is a keen follower of technology and finance. He has worked for a variety of online publications, writing about a diverse range of topics including mobile networks, patents, and Internet video delivery technologies.