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Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Microsoft mandates iPhone use for Chinese employees to boost cybersecurity

This policy, set to take effect in September 2024, aims to mitigate security risks by eliminating the use of Android devices in the office.

In a significant move to bolster cybersecurity, Microsoft is mandating that its employees in China switch from Android phones to iPhones for work purposes. This policy, set to take effect in September 2024, aims to mitigate security risks by eliminating the use of Android devices in the office.

Security Overhaul and New Policy

According to a Bloomberg report, the decision was communicated via an internal memo. Microsoft views iPhones as inherently safer due to iOS’s lower vulnerability to security breaches compared to the fragmented Android ecosystem. Chinese staff currently using Android phones, including popular local brands like Xiaomi and Huawei, will receive an iPhone 15 as a one-time replacement. Distribution points will be established within Microsoft’s Chinese offices to facilitate this transition. This policy also extends to employees in Hong Kong.

Read More: Microsoft simplifies file sharing between Windows PCs and Android phones

Unified Security Measures

Employees will now need iPhones to access essential work applications, such as Microsoft Authenticator and Identity Pass, which are critical for identity verification and secure login. The unified nature of iOS allows for easier monitoring and reduces the risk of breaches, compared to the diverse Android landscape in China, dominated by app stores from companies like Huawei and Xiaomi.

Long-standing Presence and Investment in China

Microsoft’s decision is influenced by its significant investment in China, where it has been present since 1992. The company operates its largest research and development center outside the US in China, underscoring the importance of robust security measures to protect its assets and intellectual property in the region.

Part of the Secure Future Initiative

This move is part of Microsoft’s Secure Future Initiative, launched in November 2023 to overhaul its cybersecurity standards. Despite this initiative, Microsoft has faced several major cybersecurity incidents. Earlier this year, Russian hackers breached Microsoft’s corporate email systems, and a third-party cybersecurity firm accessed internal Microsoft data on an unsecured Azure cloud server.

Read More: Massive outage disrupts Microsoft services, Bing, and AI tools globally

Following a seven-month review, US federal regulators urged Microsoft to make fundamental reforms to its cybersecurity policies. The review board attributed a recent China-backed email hack to weaknesses in Microsoft’s corporate culture, where Chinese hackers forged authentication tokens to breach US government Outlook accounts.