Russia to Apple, SAP: Give us source code, prove you're not spies

Russian officials have asked the companies to hand over their source code so it can be tested for surveillance capabilities.

Russia's Ministry of Communications and Mass Communications
Russia's Ministry of Communications and Mass Communications

Russia has requested that both Apple and SAP willingly hand over their software source code so it can be tested for spyware.

The nation's Ministry of Communications and Mass Media announced the request on Wednesday, with Communications minister Nikolai Nikiforov saying that checks are necessary to ensure the privacy rights of users, as well as maintain security for government agencies and corporate clients.

Russian officials claim that Microsoft is part of a project which gives Russian IT experts access to the source code of entire Microsoft software product lines to search for "undeclared capabilities," such as spyware or surveillance tools. Based on this logic, the ministry says that other companies should follow suit -- including enterprise software firm SAP and the iPad and iPhone maker.

Nikiforov commented:

"The revelations of Edward Snowden in 2013 and public statements of US intelligence to strengthen [the] surveillance of Russia in 2014 raised the question seriously [of] confidence [in] foreign software and hardware.

It is obvious that those companies that disclose the source code of their programs, not hiding anything, but those who did not intend to cooperate with Russia on this issue may have undeclared capabilities in their products."

The statement runs deeper, and what could be construed as a veiled threat is next. The Russian agency said that vendors who will not submit their products for testing could find "the use of such software and hardware in public companies or budget projects remains uncertain, because they themselves state customers will abandon the untested product in favour of trusted solutions."

This request could also be interpreted as a hint to favoring home-grown technological products in the future, in the same manner as China. The Asian country recently banned the use of Windows 8 in all new governmental computer systems, claiming that the operating system was a "potential threat" to security, and recently, China has issued an antitrust investigation into the Redmond giant. Chinese officials also labelled Apple's iPhone a " national security concern, " stating that GPS-related technology in the gadget could act as a tunnel for data theft.