Russia accuses U.S. of hacking thousands of iPhones belonging to its citizens and officials

FSB says this proves Apple and the U.S. government work together to support anti-Russian activities.

Photo by Alan Levine on Flickr / CC0 1.0

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has accused U.S. intelligence of using thousands of Apple phones to carry out “reconnaissance operations.” It says the alleged hack was discovered during a security check of the country’s telecommunications infrastructure. FSB says “anomalies were identified that are specific only to users of Apple mobile phones and are caused by the operation of previously unknown malicious software (VPO) that uses software vulnerabilities provided by the manufacturer.”

Russia’s security agency claims its diplomats serving in NATO members, Syria, Israel and China were also impacted. It says despite the claim that users’ personal data is kept confidential, this discovery “testifies to the close cooperation of the American company Apple with the national intelligence community, in particular the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).” It said Apple supports alleged anti-Russian activities by the U.S. government.

Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov says he is not aware of Kremlin staff’s iPhones being hacked. He added that any decision to ban Russian officials from using Apple devices would rest with security agencies.

Meanwhile, Russian cybersecurity and anti-virus company Kaspersky says it has uncovered a cyberattack using Apple devices. It says the purpose is to implant spyware into the devices, as it discovered in Apple devices used by its own executives. However, it maintains that it was not the main target of the cyberattack. A government cybersecurity body has echoed Kaspersky’s findings.

In May, the U.S. said it disrupted an alleged cyberespionage operation by the FSB. It said it discovered a software implant on computers that was intended to steal “sensitive documents from hundreds of computer systems in at least 50 countries, which have belonged to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member governments, journalists, and other targets of interest to the Russian Federation.”

Sources (8)
helpPrimary sources where the above facts were found.
Kremlin spokesman statement
FSB press release
Kaspersky statement
Kaspersky statement
Russia cybersecurity body statement
DOJ statement
NSA statement
CISA statement
Media Coverage (3)
helpArticles from other media outlets that covered this story.
Al Jazeera
Russia says US intelligence hacked thousands of iPhones
Russia says US hacked thousands of Apple phones in spy plot
Washington Post
Russia says thousands of iPhones were hacked, blames U.S. and Apple