Russian authorities have taken decisive measures to curb using iPhones and other Apple products among officials and state employees, citing concerns over potential “espionage” activities linked to the American tech giant.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Kremlin have raised alarm about the rising prevalence of espionage attempts by US intelligence agencies targeting Russian state institutions.

Key Takeaways: iPhones Banned for Russian Officials

  • Ban on Apple Devices: Russian authorities have banned iPhones and other Apple products for officials and state employees, citing espionage concerns.
  • Governmental Implementation: Major ministries, including finance and energy, have joined the ban, prohibiting professional use of iPhones.
  • Domestic Software Push: A decree mandates critical infrastructure organizations to transition to domestically developed software by 2025.
  • Security Concerns: The FSB and Kremlin highlight risks of US intelligence using Apple devices for espionage, prompting the ban.
  • Mixed Reactions: Officials reportedly prefer iPhones but face restrictions, while some security experts question the practicality of the ban.
  • Strategic Shift: The ban is part of Russia’s broader effort to reduce reliance on foreign technology and enhance national security.

Finance and Energy Ministries Join Ban on iPhones

The ban on Apple devices has reverberated across major ministries and institutes, with the finance and energy ministries joining the prohibition. Security officials, including FSB personnel holding civilian positions, have raised concerns about the safety of iPhones and recommended exploring alternative devices.

The ban, enacted by an agency that has already barred Apple products, reflects the gravity of the situation.

Trade Ministry and Other Government Agencies Implement Restrictions on iPhones

The trade ministry has introduced a strict ban on using iPhones for professional purposes, set to take effect imminently.

The Ministry of digital development and state-owned entity Rostec, facing Western sanctions for its involvement in supplying Russia’s military in Ukraine, have either implemented similar restrictions or expressed their intent to do so.

Russian Government Targets Domestic Software and Shuns Foreign Technology

A decree signed by President Vladimir Putin last year demanded that organizations involved in critical information infrastructure, including healthcare, science, and the financial sector, transition to domestically developed software by 2025.

This move aligns with Moscow’s longstanding objective of shifting state institutions away from foreign technology.

However, some Russian analysts believe that this measure will do little to alleviate suspicions that Western intelligence agencies can access sensitive information about Russian government activities.

The finance and energy ministries are also planning to enforce this ban. However, the ministries and the government have not responded to requests for these measures.

Andrey Soldatov, an expert in Russian security and intelligence services, said, “Officials truly believe that Americans can use their equipment for wiretapping.”

He added, “The FSB has long been concerned about using iPhones for professional contacts, but the presidential administration and other officials opposed restrictions simply because they liked iPhones.”

Russian Government’s Campaign Against Apple Begins with Alleged Spying Operation

The FSB’s announcement on June 1 of the discovery of a “spying operation by US intelligence agencies using Apple devices” marked the beginning of the Russian government’s campaign against Apple.

The FSB reported that many thousand iPhones, including those with Russian SIM cards and those registered with Moscow diplomatic missions in NATO nations, were allegedly “infected” with spying software, indicating Apple’s close collaboration with the US National Security Agency.

Restrictions on Apple Devices Raise Concerns

The limits apply to all Apple devices, according to a Rostec official, but personal use is still permitted. However, many grumble about how difficult it is to carry a separate phone or tablet for personal use.

Russian cybersecurity expert Alexey Lukatsky raised skepticism on the idea of authorities exclusively using laptops running the primitive Aurora operating system developed in Russia.

As there were existing limitations on using non-certified devices for business email, Lukatsky expressed concern about compliance because most officials did not abide by them.

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