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Russia asks Apple, SAP to turn over source code as anti-spy measure

updated 01:07 pm EDT, Wed July 30, 2014

Companies will likely be hesitant to comply

The Russian government has proposed that two Western companies, Apple and SAP, grant access to their source code so it can determine whether or not products are tools for spying on state organizations and/or the public, Reuters reports. Russia's communications minister, Nikolai Nikiforov, is said to have made the request when he met last week with Apple's local general manager, Peter Nielsen, and SAP's local managing director, Vyacheslav Orekhov. In an official Communications Ministry statement, Nikiforov comments that "Edward Snowden's revelations in 2013 and US 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."

Apple and SAP are likely to resist the pressure to share source code, since it contains guarded business secrets that could potentially leak to rivals. It might also allow the Russian government to conduct its own spying. At the same time, resistance could potentially shut the companies out of the Russian market. The Communications Ministry says that it "remains uncertain" if businesses refusing to share source code will be able to sell software and hardware to the government. Since 2003, Microsoft has been sharing source code for Windows and other products with Atlas, an organization that reports to the Ministry.

Relations between Russia and the West have deteriorated sharply during the past year, first because of Snowden exposing questionable NSA practices, and more recently due to Russia invading Crimea and backing separatists in eastern Ukraine. Just this week the US and the European Union imposed new economic sanctions, accusing the separatists of shooting down a Malaysian airliner.

by MacNN Staff



  1. pairof9s

    Senior User

    Joined: 01-03-08

    A snowball's chance in hell they'll get the source code from either of those 2 companies

  1. Jeronimo2000

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-20-01

    Damn bitch, Putin, you funny. :)

    And kudos to MacNN for the "Understatement Of The Month" subheadline which reads "Companies will likely be hesitant to comply". Yes. There is a certain chance that Apple might say "Fuck you".

  1. Inkling

    Senior User

    Joined: 07-25-06

    There should be a contest to determine what the best Apple response is. My suggestion is the Greek term, Molon labe--"Come and take it," whose historical context is here,

  1. chimaera

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 04-08-07

    Darwin is already open source, covering the kernel and generic low-level services. The governments would likely want to check source on background services - most apps only run occasionally. So they'd be negotiating over the graphics / windowing systems, sound system, perhaps Mail and Safari. Something might be worked out there, perhaps for a suitable fee. And/or via a trusted 3rd party.

    Having a trusted 3rd party do security audits on source code of consumer products would be a GREAT idea. And I'd more likely trust a 3rd party than a government. Governments have that bad lying habit. And the shooting habit when you call them on it.

  1. Mike Wuerthele

    Managing Editor

    Joined: 07-19-12

    Originally Posted by Jeronimo2000View Post

    Damn bitch, Putin, you funny. :)

    And kudos to MacNN for the "Understatement Of The Month" subheadline which reads "Companies will likely be hesitant to comply". Yes. There is a certain chance that Apple might say "**** you".

    I'd like to say we've taken a sensitivity class, but hey. There it is.

    At least we aren't doing headlines like 'YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT APPLE SAID TO THE KREMLIN'

  1. Bittyson

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 09-21-11

    I didn't know if was April. Or that I had reached the Onion site.

  1. JeffLass

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-21-07

    If Russia cuts Apple out of its market for not getting Apple's source code, then the Russian people will not have access to the best computers on the planet. However you can bet that killer Putin and his corrupt thug buddies will have them.

  1. prl99

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 03-24-09

    Small surprise that Microsoft shares its source code. No wonder Windows PC have been easily attacked by Russian hackers. It wouldn't surprise me if Microsoft also shares source code with China. These two countries are the main source of government-supported hacking of US sites.

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