Natalya Kaspersky's Snoop-Proof Phone Helps Putin Thwart Spies

Natalya Kaspersky's Snoop-Proof Phone Helps Putin Thwart Spies

Taiga smartphone prevents spying by apps such as Google
Designer InfoWatch bets on demand from companies, agencies

By Ilya Khrennikov September 25, 2017, 2:02 AM PDT

A Russian security company run by Kaspersky Lab’s co-founder is introducing a smartphone that prevents Google and other apps from snooping on users, seeking to capitalize on the country’s tensions with the U.S.

The Taiga phone, designed by Moscow-based InfoWatch Group and named after desolated forests in Siberia, runs its own Android-based firmware that lets apps run on the device but stops them from collecting data. The phone also has a built-in agent that gives the administrator -- such as a corporate IT department -- control over what apps will work on the device and what content the user can access or share.

“Most smartphone apps collect certain data on users and send it to outside servers,” said Natalya Kaspersky, head of InfoWatch. “When people use personal phones at work, their corporate emails, documents and job-related photos come under threat of being -- maliciously or accidentally -- leaked to third parties.”

InfoWatch is betting on demand in Russia amid concerns over user data collected by U.S.-based companies such as Google and Facebook. The first 50,000 Taiga phones, made in China, will be delivered to employees of Russian companies co-owned by the state. Potential markets also include Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, where InfoWatch has opened offices.

Kaspersky co-founded anti-virus producer Kaspersky Lab and ran it before her divorce from partner Eugene Kaspersky. President Donald Trump recently restricted the use of Kaspersky Lab products by U.S. government entities over the firm’s alleged ties with the Russian government. Kaspersky now runs her own business and works in a Kremlin-backed working group on information-technology sovereignty.

Vladimir Putin is seeking to reduce Russia’s reliance on companies such as Microsoft Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. amid geopolitical tensions with the U.S. over Ukraine and Syria. Russia gave asylum to U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden, who revealed that the National Security Agency had access to Google’s data centers worldwide, and a local TV channel this year ran a comedy series about an American spy at Russia’s largest natural gas producer Gazprom PJSC.


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