Advisors and staff to Russia’s maximum leader have been told to ditch their iPhones by the end of the month. Or, for those who don’t want to throw their Apple devices in the bin, the other option is to “give it to the kids,” according to a local Kommersant report.
It’s part of a larger effort to “abandon American technology,” and replace it with apparently more secure IT that can’t be hacked by Western cyber spies, the newspaper said.
The Russian report, citing several sources who attended an event in Moscow earlier this month, noted that the country’s presidential administration employees have until April 1 to replace their iPhones with Android-based smartphones, or others with Chinese or Aurora operating systems.
Aurora is a Linux-based smartphone OS developed by Open Mobile Platform, which is owned by Russian IT firm Rostelecom.
The new smartphone mandate covers staffers who work in four departments: domestic policy, public projects, state council, and IT and communications infrastructure.
Other regional political bloc governments are reportedly considering similar iPhone bans, and Putin’s government is considering buying employees new replacement phones, the report added.
The iPhone ban is “purely for security reasons,” not politics, political scientist Nikolai Mironov told Kommersant.
“After all, there is no mass rejection of ‘unfriendly’ brands, they continue to be used where it does not pose a threat of data leakage,” he added. “So I don’t see politics here, a purely pragmatic solution.”
When asked about the smartphone policy, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “smartphones should not be used for official business.”
“Any smartphone has a fairly transparent mechanism, no matter what operating system it has – Android or iOS,” Peskov said, according to Reuters. “Naturally, they are not used for official purposes.”
The Kremlin does, however, use smartphones for espionage purposes. Quite a lot in fact.
Putin reportedly refuses to use a smartphone, which, if you are a politician (or anyone else) wanting to avoid cyber snoops entirely, isn’t the worst idea in the world. Former British Prime Minister claimed he never owned a mobile phone until he left political office.
Considering the many high-profile hacks in the decade-and-a-half since, as well as the flying Pegasus mobile phone spyware, it may be one of the few how-not-to-get-your-phone-hacked solutions that actually work. ®