Tech giant Microsoft Corp. has notified employees in China that they must switch from Android smartphones to Apple iPhones by September 2024. This mandate has also been extended to the Microsoft Hong Kong office.

Microsoft orders China staff to use iPhones for work and drop Android

Microsoft Asks Its China's Staff To Use iPhones And Not Android

According to an internal memo reviewed by Bloomberg, the mandate is to standardize the company’s use of mobile devices to enhance security and ensure access to necessary authentication apps for work purposes.

Microsoft’s memo stated that all mainland China employees must turn in their Android-based work smartphones — including devices made by Huawei or Xiaomi — by September 2024. Instead, they will be provided with an iPhone 15 as a one-time purchase, specifically for identity verification and using two-factor authentication when logging into their work phones.

Further, the iPhones will be made available for collection at various hubs across China, including Hong Kong, where Google’s services are allowed. However, the Bloomberg report said that employees may continue using Android handsets as their phones.

The new rule is intended to ensure that all staff use mandatory Android-based security apps like Microsoft Authenticator and the Identity Pass app. Since the Google Play Store is officially unavailable in mainland China, Microsoft has decided to ban Android smartphones and opt for Apple’s iPhones instead, as Apple’s App Store is the only place employees in China can download these security apps.

“Due to the lack of availability of Google Mobile Services in this region, we look to offer employees a means of accessing these required apps, such as an iOS device,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

This security-based change for Microsoft comes after a Russian-state-sponsored hacking group, Midnight Blizzard, attacked dozens of U.S. government agencies, including the State Department and Microsoft’s own systems, earlier this year.

With U.S. lawmakers putting pressure on Microsoft, the company announced a new Secure Future Initiative (SFI) program in November 2023. The program focuses on AI-based cyber defenses, advances in fundamental software engineering, and advocacy for more robust application of international norms to protect civilians from cyber threats. SFI aims to address vulnerabilities in the cloud faster, secure credentials, and automatically enforce multi-factor authentication for employees.

SOURCEBloomberg

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