Russia moves to ban iPhones for government officials over US spying fears

Russia is set to ban iPhones for government officials and state employees after accusing Apple of helping the US government conduct espionage operations.

Government officials at Russia’s trade ministry will be banned from using iPhones and other Apple products for “work purposes” from July 17, the Financial Times reported.

The trade ministry’s ban includes emailed correspondence relating to work activities, said its deputy head Vasily Osmako.

The digital development ministry said it will follow suit, while state-owned company Rostec, which is under Western sanctions, said it has already introduced a ban on Apple products.

It comes after the Kremlin told officials to stop using Apple products in March, citing fears they were vulnerable to US hacking.

“Officials truly believe that Americans can use their equipment for wiretapping,” Andrey Soldatov, a Russia security and intelligence services expert, told the Financial Times.

Russia’s Federal Security Service claimed in June it had uncovered a “spying operation by US intelligence agencies using Apple devices”. However, the FSB provided no evidence.

The security service claimed several thousand iPhones with Russian SIM cards or registered with Moscow diplomatic missions in Nato countries were “infected” with monitoring software that indicated Apple’s “close co-operation” with the US National Security Agency.

“Everyone in the presidential administration is aware that the iPhone is a completely transparent device and its use for official purposes is unacceptable and prohibited,” Dmitry Peskov, president Putin’s spokesperson, said last month.

Apple has denied working with US intelligence services. The tech company said it “has never worked with any government to build a backdoor into any Apple product, and never will”.

The ban will not impact regular consumers. Apple pulled out of Russia following last year’s invasion of Ukraine. However, Apple products continue to be imported to Russia from other countries.

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