News / Europe

    Russia Wants Apple, SAP to Cooperate Against Foreign Spying

    A man walks past a recently erected iPhone-shaped monument in memory of Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs in the yard of the State University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics, St. Petersburg, January 10, 2013.
    A man walks past a recently erected iPhone-shaped monument in memory of Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs in the yard of the State University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics, St. Petersburg, January 10, 2013.
    Reuters

    Russia has proposed that Apple Inc. and SAP hand the government access to their source code to make sure their widely used products are not tools for spying on state institutions.

    The suggestion that two of the world's flagship technology companies disclose some of their most sensitive business secrets comes as the United States and Europe debate their most severe sanctions yet against Russia for its role in Ukraine.

    On Tuesday, the United States imposed a new round of sanctions, hitting three Russian banks, including the country's second-biggest, VTB.

    The European Union reached agreement on Tuesday on its first broad economic sanctions, marking a new phase in the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

    The Russian proposal was voiced last week when Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov met Apple's general manager in Russia, Peter Engrob Nielsen, and SAP's Russian managing director, Vyacheslav Orekhov, the Communications Ministry said in a statement.

    It said the proposal was designed to ensure the rights of consumers and corporate users to the privacy of their personal data, as well as for state security interests.

    While couched in the language of protecting privacy, any Russian move to force these companies to divulge the inner workings of their software could pose a major threat to their viability if they were to lose control of the source code.

    “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 in the statement released late on Tuesday.

    He was referring to bombshell disclosures by the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor that revealed widespread NSA snooping through eavesdropping on popular technology products and services. Since then, experts have concluded that U.S. government-backed standards for software encryption have created backdoors for the NSA to spy on users.

    Russia is not alone in challenging technology companies to come clean about their privacy practices.

    Governments ranging from Germany to Brazil to China to India and dozens of other nations are revising technology practices in light of the NSA revelations — although most stop short of asking that technology companies disclose their source code.

    Crown jewels

    A computer's source code is the underlying set of computer instructions that control the functioning of any software program and translate it into machine-readable instructions for computers. Source code represents the crown jewels for any software maker and most major commercial software companies jealously guard the code as their most precious secrets.

    “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 said.

    The ministry cited its more than decade-long cooperation with Microsoft. The U.S. firm has been sharing its source code for the Windows operating system and other products since 2003 with Atlas, a technology institution that reports to the communications ministry.

    The ministry said the prospect of state companies using software and hardware when the producers do not share their source code with the government “remains uncertain.”

    SAP and Apple both declined any immediate comment.

    The business models that have grown up around source code fall into two basic camps: Proprietary and open-source. Proprietary software makers strictly copyright their source code to prevent rivals from copying its hidden features.

    An increasing popular alternative is open source software whose developers provide open access to their source code and encourage collaborators to make modifications and improvements.

    Typically, open source software makers charge customers for services and other products rather than for the software itself but must of the world's biggest tech companies resist doing so.

    Apple, the world's most valuable company by market capitalization, is best known for its distinctive range of computer and phone devices, which it seeks to distinguish through its closely-guarded proprietary software.

    SAP, the world's fourth largest maker of business software, by revenue, and Germany's largest technology company, makes business planning software that many top multinational companies use to maintain financial control of their far-flung operations. It too keeps close guard over the source code of its products.

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Rubic Cube
    July 31, 2014 10:41 AM
    Simple solution, don't provide the source code. Let the Russians develop their own computer software programs which they can control. Imagine the havoc the Russians can create, if they have the source codes. This would be the demise of the West and financial institutions.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.