Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has alleged that the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) used iPhone backdoor vulnerabilities to spy on Russian officials and citizens. The FSB claims to have discovered an NSA plot involving previously unknown malware that exploited these backdoors, infecting thousands of iPhones in Russia.
According to a statement, the FSB uncovered an intelligence operation by US special services using Apple devices. They accused Apple of giving the NSA access to spy on people interested in anti-Russian activities, including Russian citizens.
The alleged intelligence operation targeted the iPhones of Russian users and foreign diplomats stationed in Russia, including Israel, Syria and China. The FSB claims its investigation was assisted by Russia’s Federal Guards Service, which is responsible for protecting the country’s leaders.
“US intelligence services have been using IT corporations for decades to collect massive amounts of data on Internet users without their knowledge,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in support of the operations.
Russia has long raised concerns about the security of US technology and has previously raised questions about its use by Western intelligence agencies. President Vladimir Putin himself claims not to use a smartphone, although the Kremlin has admitted that he occasionally accesses the Internet.
Earlier this year, the Kremlin directed officials involved in preparations for the 2024 presidential election to stop using iPhones. The decision was made due to concerns about the device’s vulnerability to Western intelligence agencies.
While the US and Russia engage in intelligence operations and accusations against each other, the methods and details of intelligence gathering are closely monitored. For example, how Western spies obtained intelligence about President Putin’s alleged plans to invade Ukraine last year.
Apple and the NSA have not yet responded to requests for comment.