Microsoft Office could soon be deleted from all Russian government offices. As part of ramping up activities against the United States, the Russian government is planning to ditch all associated web properties, including professional networking platform LinkedIn, which is in the midst of an acquisition by Microsoft.
The Vladimir Putin administration could soon force government offices and associated businesses to completely uninstall all Microsoft software products, including the widely popular Microsoft Office, an application suite comprising of several useful applications, including MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint, and MS Outlook. The country has apparently targeted Microsoft because it’s an easy target for anti-American sentiment, reported NBC News.
Speaking about the latest in cyber warfare, a senior U.S. intelligence official noted that the Kremlin intends to remove all foreign software, including those from Microsoft, and replace them with indigenous software. The country has been trying to get rid of Microsoft Office platform, as well as several Operating Systems (OS) that the Redmond-based company makes.
Russia already has several variants of OS that are tailored for specific arms of the Russian defense forces, as well as its intelligence agencies. The majority of the operating systems the country has developed are essentially tailored or customized variants of Linux.
Interestingly, besides ditching Microsoft Office, Russia is planning to get rid of popular mobile OS Android made by Google, and the Kremlin is also ditching Apple’s iOS. Russia has already commissioned a Linux-based variant that essentially sits on top of Sailfish, a popular mobile OS designed for smartphones developed by the Finnish company, Jolla, which was founded by former Nokia engineers. The Russian company, Open Mobile Platform, is believed to be hiring developers, testers, and security engineers to create the mobile OS, reported The Hacker News.
There have been indications about Russia and other countries being interested in weakening the virtual monopoly and domination of U.S. based companies over the digital sector. Needless to say, while Microsoft controls a large portion of the IT market, Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS dominate the smartphone sector. Incidentally, Russia is also developing its own version of the Tizen operating system. This platform is more suited for tablets and laptops, as well as the Internet of things (IoT) devices.
While Microsoft is concerned about Russia’s intentions, the company has always maintained that user privacy and security are two of its priorities, and they claim Microsoft has never spied on anyone.
Making the company’s intentions clear, Dominic Carr, Microsoft’s general manager for public affairs said, “We don’t spy on anyone. We don’t work with any government to spy on others, and we never would. We make sure governments can review our software to confirm for themselves that our products are secure, and we’ve worked hard to increase privacy protections for customers including by suing the US government four times.”
While Russia wants to weed out Microsoft, there is ample evidence to suggest an organized and well-funded team of Russian hackers have used the company’s products to wage cyber-attacks on neighboring Ukraine. It is believed that last year, the Russian hackers managed to cripple Ukraine’s electrical grid using a Microsoft Office attachment. Hence, the country could be justifiably worried that Microsoft Office, like any software, could be used as weapons in cyber-warfare, reported NBC News.
While the Kremlin talks about getting rid of Microsoft products, a large number of the company’s products are deeply integrated within Russia’s IT infrastructure. Ditching Microsoft Office might not be impossible, but it is certainly very tricky, according to U.S. IT experts.
Fiona Hill on Microsoft and Russia: "The Russians really mean business now about nationalizing the internet." https://t.co/Lzonr1mzsY— Brookings FP (@BrookingsFP) November 2, 2016
Many international experts insist that Russia’s concern about national security is a mere ruse. The country intends to have better control over digital content within the nation’s boundaries. While forcing corporations to use indigenous software will bolster the local economy, the Kremlin will have power to swiftly censor, block content or insert surveillance tools, reported Engadget.
[Featured Image by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images]