On Thursday, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said that it had discovered a U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) plan to use previously unknown malware to access ‘backdoor’ vulnerabilities in Apple iPhones.
According to the FSB, which is the successor of the Soviet-era KGB, several thousand phones had been infected with malware. Many of the infected phones belong to domestic Russian users.
The Russian agency also said that some of the phones that were targeted belonged to foreign diplomats in Russia and other former Soviet states, including diplomats from some NATO countries, Syria, China, and Israel, according to Reuters.
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“The FSB has uncovered an intelligence action of the American special services using Apple mobile devices,” the spy agency said in a statement.
The FSB noted that the plot indicated that there is a close relationship between Apple and the NSA, which is the agency responsible for U.S. security and cryptographic and communications intelligence.
Russia’s foreign ministry released a statement saying that “The hidden data collection was carried out through software vulnerabilities in U.S.-made mobile phones.”
“The U.S. intelligence services have been using IT corporations for decades in order to collect large-scale data of Internet users without their knowledge,” the statement added.
According to Harvard University’s Belfer Center Cyber 2022 Power Index, the U.S. is the world’s leading cyber power when it comes to intent and capability followed by China, Russia, the UK, and Australia.
Last year, not long after Russian troops entered Ukraine, U.S., and British spies publicly divulged intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin was planning to invade the country. It has never been revealed how that intelligence was gathered.
According to Western spies, Russia has created a sophisticated domestic surveillance system. Meanwhile, Russian officials have raised questions over the security of U.S. technology for years. While Putin, a former KGB spy, has always maintained that he doesn’t own a smartphone, the Kremlin has reported that the Russian president uses the internet on occasion.
The Kremlin also told officials involved in preparations for Russia’s upcoming 2024 presidential election not to use Apple iPhones amid concerns that the devices could be used by Western intelligence agencies to gather intel.
Earlier this year First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, told officials during a Kremlin-organized event for domestic political officials that they had until April 1 to get rid of their iPhones.
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