The Russian government wants Apple and Sap to hand over their source codes. The public administration is worried that software produced by the two companies might hide capabilities that could be used for spying. Nikolai Nikiforov, Russia’s Communication Minister, gave the example of Microsoft, who agreed to collaborate with the Russian government since 2003, when they agreed to share the Windows XP source code, so it is not the first time Russia asks source codes.
Nikolai Nikiforov met with Apple Apple’s general manager in Russia, Peter Engrob Nielsen and SAP’s managing director last week, according to Cultofmac. “Obviously, companies which disclose the source code of their programs are not hiding anything, but those who do not intend to establish cooperation with Russia on this issue may have undeclared capabilities in their products,” Nikiforov declared.
Russian lawmakers passed a bill recently requiring all the companies handling Russian citizen data to have servers on Russian soil.
Russia asks source codes from tech corporations as international political tension builds up
Right now Russia is in a very delicate position. The European Union and the United States are discussing future sanctions against Russia for its alleged role in the Ukrainian events. The United States already imposed sanctions hitting three Russian banks, Reuters says. Right now international politics are incredibly tense, with at least two open conflicts developing in Ukraine and Gaza.
Russia is not the only country with raised suspicions against software companies. Because of the latest security scandals, Germany, Brazil and China are some of the countries revising communication technology and practices. Russia’s move is bolder than the other concerned states. “Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 and U.S. intelligence services’ public statements about the strengthening of surveillance of Russia in 2014 have raised a serious question of trust in foreign software and hardware,” Nikiforov said on Tuesday night.
The problem is that both Apple and SAP use proprietary, instead of open-source software. Companies with this type of policy are sensitive to requests of revealing source codes because they rely their whole business model on patents and technological secrets.
But Russia, as many other countries, have good reasons to suspect proprietary software of potentially hiding spying tools. Because of how the U.S. regulators demand the software companies to design software encryption, backdoors for NSA to spy on users have been discovered. Russia asks source codes in a time when spying is easier, but more complex than ever.
Neither SAP, nor Apple offered any comments so far.