Amid growing concerns about espionage activities by American tech companies, Russian authorities have taken a stern stance against Apple products, with thousands of officials and state employees facing a ban on using iPhones and other devices manufactured by the company, according to a report in Financial Times (FT). Starting this Monday, the trade ministry has declared a complete prohibition on the use of iPhones for “work purposes”. Other government entities, such as the digital development ministry and Rostec, the state-owned company facing sanctions for supplying Russia’s military efforts in Ukraine, have either already implemented similar bans or have announced their intention to do so, the outlet further said.
The decision to ban iPhones, iPads, and other Apple gadgets in leading ministries and institutions is a reflection of the Kremlin and the Federal Security Service’s mounting worries about the increased espionage activities by US intelligence agencies targeting Russian state establishments.
Financial Times quoted a person close to a Russian government agency as saying that security officials, including FSB employees holding civilian positions like deputy ministers, “raised concerns about the safety of iPhones and urged the adoption of alternative devices”.
The move comes in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order, issued a month after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year, which demanded that organizations involved in “critical information infrastructure” – encompassing healthcare, science, and the financial sector – transition to domestically developed software by 2025, the FT report said.
The Kremlin’s long-standing desire to have state institutions shift away from foreign technology remains evident, with some Russian analysts skeptical that the current ban will do enough to allay suspicions surrounding the potential access of western intelligence agencies to sensitive information on Russian government activities.
“Officials truly believe that Americans can use their equipment for wiretapping,” Andrey Soldatov, a Russia security and intelligence services expert, told the outlet. “The FSB has long been concerned about the use of iPhones for professional contacts, but the presidential administration and other officials opposed restrictions simply because they liked iPhones.”
The report further claimed that similar bans will soon be enforced in the finance and energy ministries and other official bodies. But a Rostec representative told FT that use of Apple devices for personal purposes is still allowed.
However, there has been no official comment from the Russian government or the ministries concerned.