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Apple CEO had 'very open' talks with China on privacy, security

Tim Cook met with a Chinese official to talk online security amid allegations that the country tried to hack Apple's iCloud service.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook met with a government official to discuss security during a four-day trip to China. James Martin/CNET

Apple CEO Tim Cook said talks with a Chinese official about online security were "very open," just days after a Web monitoring site claimed Apple's iCloud service was hacked by people with ties to the Chinese government.

Cook met with China Vice Premier Ma Kai on Wednesday in Beijing reportedly to discuss protecting user information. Cook described his talks with the vice premier as "very open," according to an interview with China's state-run Xinhua News Agency on Friday, though details of the conversation were not divulged. The meeting came just a day after Apple warned the public about cyberattacks against its cloud storage service.

On Tuesday, Apple posted a security notice warning iCloud users that they could come under attack.

Apple is deeply committed to protecting our customers' privacy and security. We're aware of intermittent organized network attacks using insecure certificates to obtain user information, and we take this very seriously. These attacks don't compromise iCloud servers, and they don't impact iCloud sign in on iOS devices or Macs running OS X Yosemite using the Safari browser.

In a blog post on Monday, Greatfire.org, which monitors Chinese Internet censorship, accused the Chinese government of being involved in an iCloud hack that attacked users in China. Greatfire said the "malicious attack" was designed to "gain access to usernames and passwords," and claimed China could use the stolen user information to obtain all data stored on iCloud, such as iMessages, photos and contacts.

The Chinese government denied those allegations, and Cook, who is on a four-day trip to China, has been loath in public comments to say much about the issue. This may be partly due to the importance of the China, the world's largest smartphone market, for Apple. The company sold a record number of iPhones 5S handsets in the country during the fourth quarter of 2013. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus also appear to be off to a strong start, though a delay in launching the new iPhones in the country -- the devices when on sale October 17, a full month after launching in the US and elsewhere -- contributed to a decline in the growth of iPhone sales in China last quarter.

Cook has made it clear that China is one of the company's most important markets. The chief executive on Thursday announced his company hopes to open 25 more retail stores in China within the next couple of years. Apple currently has 15 stores in China.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Via Reuters)