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Microsoft mandates iPhones for Chinese staff over security concerns

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Microsoft has informed its employees in China that starting in September, they will only be permitted to use iPhones for work. This directive effectively eliminates Android-powered devices within the company’s Chinese workforce.

First reported by Bloomberg, this decision is part of Microsoft’s global Secure Future Initiative (SFI) and will likely impact hundreds of employees across China. The company aims to standardise its authentication processes by mandating the Microsoft Authenticator and Identity Pass app, which is available on Apple’s iOS platform.

The policy change highlights the fragmented nature of the Android app ecosystem in China. Unlike the unified iOS App Store, Android users in the country rely on a patchwork of pap stores operated by local smartphone manufacturers such as Huawei and Xiaomi. These platforms lack Google Mobile Services, which Microsoft deems essential for maintaining its desired security standards.

The move also raises questions about the long-term implications for Android’s market position in enterprise environments, particularly in regions with restricted access to Google services.

Microsoft has committed to providing iPhone 15 as a one-time purchase for affected employees to facilitate this transition. The company will establish distribution hubs across China, including Hong Kong, where Google services remain accessible.

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This announcement by Microsoft will add to the deteriorating US-China geopolitics situation.

This development comes in the wake of increasing cybersecurity threats by Microsoft and other major tech companies. Microsoft, in particular, has been under scrutiny following a series of high-profile breaches, including a Russia-linked attack in January that affected numerous U.S. government agencies, including the State Department. The incident prompted calls from American legislators for enhanced security measures.

Microsoft has not publicly addressed the reasons behind this decision. However, the pressure from the United States government is said to be one of the reasons why the tech giant adopted this measure.

“Cyberattacks have grown rapidly and dangerously in recent years. We now see daily headlines of major industrial disruption, attacks on medical services, and other critical aspects of our daily lives. The sheer speed, scale, and sophistication of the attacks we’re seeing is a reminder for our industry and the world on how advanced digital threats have become,” explained Charlie Bell, Executive Vice President of Microsoft Security, announcing the SFI in November 2023.

Recently, it was revealed that during the Microsft breach in November 2023, the Russian hacking group Midnight Blizzard gained access to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, the US Agency for Global Media, and the Peace Corps.

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Kumar Hemant

Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: kumarhemant@pm.me

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