Russia bans state officials from using Apple devices over US spying concerns

Russian authorities have begun to ban government employees from using Apple devices for official state use, according to the Financial Times. As of Monday, the country’s trade ministry will prohibit the use of iPhones for all “work purposes.” Other agencies, including Russia’s telecommunications and mass media ministry, either have similar mandates already in place or plan to begin enforcing ones soon. The Times reports the ban covers all Apple products. In some cases, however, officials can continue using those devices for personal use, provided they don’t open work correspondence on them.

Apple did not immediately respond to Engadget’s comment request. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February, the company cut off access to Apple Pay. It later halted all product sales in Russia. At the time, Apple made clear the decision was in response to the invasion, noting it stood “with all of the people” hurt by the incursion.

The ban comes after Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed at the start of June that it had uncovered a “spying operation by US intelligence agencies” involving Apple devices. The FSB said thousands of iPhones, including those in use by the country’s diplomatic missions in NATO countries, had been “infected” with monitoring software. The FSB went on to claim — without showing evidence — that Apple had worked closely with US signal intelligence to provide agents “with a wide range of control tools.” The tech giant denied those allegations, stating it had “never worked with any government to build a backdoor into any Apple product, and never will.”

More broadly, the move is reflective of a desire by Russia’s government to lessen its dependence on foreign-made technology. As The Times notes, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree last year ordering institutions involved in “critical information infrastructure” to migrate to domestically developed software by 2025. 

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