Vladimir Putin’s staff have been forbidden from using Apple’s iPhone over fears the iconic gadget could be hacked by the US security services.
Kremlin workers have been given until the end of the month to replace their Apple devices with Android-based phones – which use an operating system designed by Google in California – or handsets that use Russia’s Linux-based Aurora software.
According to Moscow’s Kommersant newspaper, one Kremlin insider said: “It's all over for the iPhone. Either throw it away or give it to the kids.”
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They claimed iPhones were “more susceptible to hacking and espionage by Western experts compared to other smartphones”. Apple has declined to comment on the Russian move.
Putin’s official spokesman Dmitry Peskov went one further, saying that government employees shouldn’t use any smartphones for work purposes.
“Smartphones should not be used for official business,” he said, warning that they were “transparent” to Western spy agencies such as GCHQ in Cheltenham or America’s NSA.
“Any smartphone has a fairly transparent mechanism,” he said, “no matter what operating system it has Android or iOS.
“Naturally, they are not used for official purposes.”
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The Russian Government is reportedly considering the possibility issuing “new and secure” devices to all Kremlin staff.
One device under consideration is the Russian-made AYYA T1 smartphone, which has a physical switch to disable its camera and microphone as an “anti-wiretapping” feature.
Produced by Smartecosystem, a subsidiary of the Russian state company Rostec, the phone is already being tested by the Russian Defence Ministry, with talk of an order for half a million phones if the experiment is successful.
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Meanwhile, here in the West, government agencies in the US, the UK and across Europe are banning the use of TikTok over fears that the Chinese-backed video-blogging app could be sending too much of users’ data to China.
BBC staff have also been ordered to remove the app from their phones over cyber security fears.
A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC takes the safety and security of our systems, data and people incredibly seriously.
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"We constantly review activity on third-party platforms – including TikTok – and will continue to do so."
A spokesman for TikTok responded: 'We are disappointed with the guidance that the BBC has shared, but welcome the fact TikTok can still be used as part of editorial, marketing and reporting purposes.
“The BBC has a strong presence on our platform. We believe these bans have been based on fundamental misconceptions and driven by wider geopolitics. We remain in close dialogue with the BBC and are committed to working with them to address any concerns."
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