Microsoft Mandates iPhones for Staff in China Amid Security Concerns

Microsoft Mandates iPhones for Staff in China Amid Security Concerns

Microsoft has ordered its employees in China to switch from Android devices to iPhones by September, citing mounting security concerns. This move follows a series of cybersecurity issues and aims to enhance staff security in the country.

The decision comes after Chinese state-sponsored hackers exploited a flaw in Microsoft’s Exchange software to access email accounts of government employees and U.S. companies last year. In response, Microsoft has informed its staff that Android phones will be blocked from accessing services used for identity verification and logging into work devices. Instead, essential apps like Microsoft Authenticator will only be available on Apple’s App Store in China.

While Microsoft offers these apps on Google’s Play Store for Android phones, the Google store is blocked in China, forcing Android devices to rely on local alternatives from companies such as Huawei and Xiaomi. To facilitate the transition, Microsoft has arranged for employees to pick up iPhones at various offices in China and Hong Kong to replace their Android devices.

This move is part of Microsoft’s broader “Secure Future Initiative” following a series of cyber intrusions. Last year, the company faced heavy criticism from the U.S. for a “cascade of failures” that allowed a Chinese hacking group, dubbed “Storm-0558,” to access the emails of high-ranking government officials.

Multinational companies are increasingly implementing strict protocols for staff working or visiting China. Consultancies like Deloitte and KPMG advised staff to use burner phones in Hong Kong, a practice already encouraged within China.

Meanwhile, Apple faces its own challenges in China due to renewed competition from Huawei and a government ban on using foreign devices, including iPhones. Microsoft has also been relocating staff working on high-end artificial intelligence software out of China as the U.S. and China vie for technological supremacy.

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