The CIA installed malware on thousands of Apple phones used by Russian citizens and foreign diplomats working in the country, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has claimed.
The FSB said on Thursday that a joint operation with the Federal Guard Service (FSO) had “uncover[ed] a surveillance operation by American intelligence agencies, carried out with the use of Apple’s mobile devices.”
An assessment of Russia’s telecom infrastructure revealed “anomalies” in the operations of some iPhones, caused by “a previously unknown malicious program that uses software vulnerabilities provided by the manufacturer,” a statement by the agency read.
Several thousand phones made by Apple were infected with the malware, according to the FSB.
Not only Russian citizens were targeted, but also “foreign phone numbers and subscribers that use SIM cards registered with diplomatic missions and embassies inside Russia, including countries from the NATO bloc and the post-Soviet space, as well Israel, Syria and China,” the agency said.
The discovery is more proof of the close cooperation between Apple and the US intelligence community, the FSB claimed, adding that “the declared policy of ensuring the privacy of personal data of Apple users has nothing to do with reality.”
The FSB also accused Apple of “providing the American intelligence services with a wide range of opportunities to survey any persons of interest to the White House, including their partners in anti-Russian activities, as well as their own citizens.”
In March, the Kommersant newspaper reported that members of the Russian presidential administration had been told to discard their iPhones. According to the paper, the step was taken due to concerns that advanced cyberwarfare tools, such as the Israeli Pegasus software, could allow Apple gadgets to be breached, despite the producer’s claims of their enhanced security features.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the report, but noted that Russian officials were in any case barred from using smartphones “for work purposes” due to the potential vulnerability of devices.