Russian Officials to Ditch iPhones Over Espionage Fears

Thousands of Russian officials are being urged to quit using iPhones and other Apple products due to fears of U.S. spying. The Russian authorities have enforced a ban on Apple devices for a large number of state employees and officials following claims of an uncovered espionage operation conducted via these devices.

The decision means that from Monday, the use of iPhones for work will be banned in several major government sectors, including the trade and digital development ministries and Rostec, a state-owned company, reports the Financial Times.

Rostec, in particular, has been under Western sanctions for aiding Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine. iPhones for “work purposes” will no longer be possible, but the phones can still be used for personal purposes.

This move comes in the wake of heightened fears within the Kremlin and the Federal Security Service spy agency about a possible increase in espionage activities by US intelligence agencies against Russian state institutions.

Officials within the Russian government have stated that iPhones are no longer deemed safe, encouraging the search for alternatives. This follows a decree by President Vladimir Putin in the previous year demanding organizations involved in “critical information infrastructure” transition to domestically developed software by 2025.

The Russian security and intelligence services expert Andrey Soldatov has noted that Russian officials firmly believe American technology can be used for wiretapping. However, these officials previously opposed restrictions on iPhone use as they favored the devices.

Further restrictions are in place or soon will be for the finance and energy ministries and other official bodies. These extend to include work-related email correspondences, as stated by the deputy head of the trade ministry, Vasily Osmakov.

The restrictions cover all Apple devices, however, their use for personal reasons is still permitted. Despite this, many have complained about the inconvenience of having to carry a separate phone or tablet for work purposes, say sources speaking to The Financial Times.

The crackdown on Apple started after the FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, claimed to have discovered a US intelligence agency spying operation utilizing Apple devices. These accusations have been denied by Apple, stating they’ve never colluded with any government to create a backdoor into any Apple product, and never will.

Specifically, the FSB suspects thousands of iPhones, equipped with both Russian SIM cards and those associated with Moscow diplomatic missions in NATO countries, Israel, Syria, and China, have been compromised with surveillance software. This allegedly points to Apple’s “close co-operation” with the US National Security Agency.

Back in March, it was said the Kremlin had encouraged officials to “throw away” iPhones over these espionage fears.

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