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Surprise, surprise: Russian YotaPhone comes with a backdoor for the KGB to spy on you (Update: Russian court order required)

Posted: , by Victor H.

Sergey Chemezov openly admits YotaPhone has a backdoor that can be used by the KGB to spy on users

Sergey Chemezov openly admits YotaPhone has a backdoor that can be used by the KGB to spy on users


Hey, color us surprised: the Russian YotaPhone, an Android smartphone best known for having a secondary rear-facing e-ink display in addition ot the regular color front display, has another special feature: a backdoor that the former KGB (now known as FSB, or Federal Security Service) can use to spy on customers' private affairs.

What's particularly shocking is that the admission comes in perfect honesty and good will from Sergey Chemezov, the head of Russian Government-sponsored Rostech corporation that is making the phone.

"The FSB will have access [to users' information]. We don't have the right to sell phones on the market in any other way - otherwise, the devices could be used by terrorists, criminals," said Chemezov.

In Soviet Russia... forget it: in modern Russia, you have no privacy

Chemezov doesn't skip on the opportunity of trashing Apple as well, claiming the iPhone has become 'the choice of terrorists'. In an epic climax of broken logic and hypocrisy, Chemezov then goes on to say that equipping the phone with a backdoor is necessary so that the phone doesn't become a choice of terrorists. Like, you know, that irresponsible, terrorist-prone iPhone (singled out by Chemezov himself) and other devices that ship with system-wide encryption and without an actual backdoor for governments to use (at least not with one that is publicly admitted by Apple, Google, or government officials).

Hey, but there are some good news: Chemezov promises the third edition of the YotaPhone is coming in February 2016, and later - towards the 2016 Holiday season - expect an affordable version of the YotaPhone. The company is also working on a wireless charger and a tablet. 

Hey, we wonder if they can cram in some sort of a GPS inside the charger to pre-emptively track your location. Because terrorists.

Update: YotaPhone kindly reached out to us with the following comment:
"It comes to the Federal law 'About operatively-search activity' that governs the actions of the security services in case of threats to national security or some serious investigation. We emphasize that the special services of the Russian Federation will be able to gain access to information on the YotaPhone only on request in accordance with the procedure prescribed in the legislation of the Russian Federation, namely: the decision of the court. Exactly the same way they can access the devices by other vendors – Samsung, Apple and others. As well as to data from Internet service providers and mobile operators."

There is, however, quite the difference between using a backdoor directly and asking a third-party company like Apple to provide data to special services, even though both happen within the same legal framework. We've reached back to Yota Devices for further clarifications.

Update #2: Yota PR now officially claims that there is NO backdoor on YotaPhones and blames Russian media (the original source of the report) for misunderstanding Mr. Chemezov.


38 Comments
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posted on 01 Jun 2015, 06:48 15

1. FoneAddict (Posts: 257; Member since: 05 Jul 2011)


Who cares, as if Apple and other American phones don't have back doors that the NSA exploit. Everyone does it Americans included!

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 06:49 7

2. tigermcm (Posts: 851; Member since: 02 Sep 2009)


at least they are admitting it this early in the game

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 06:51 4

3. Victor.H (Posts: 632; Member since: 27 May 2011)


In fact, they should not. At least that is what all the public debate is all about. And if you are actually not trolling, you might want to read about system-wide encryption on iOS 8 that seems to have upset a lot of Government officials.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 07:08 4

7. techspace (Posts: 1027; Member since: 03 Sep 2012)


But ios 8 is not NSA proof...even the police can get data off the iphones without apple's help.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 07:26 4

9. Napalm_3nema (Posts: 2086; Member since: 14 Jun 2013)


Only if you unlock it for them, and you are only compelled to do so if your fingerprint unlock is being used. If it isn't, and you don't unlock it, the authorities aren't getting squat.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 07:31

10. techspace (Posts: 1027; Member since: 03 Sep 2012)


I didn't know that...Thanks!

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 08:57 1

18. marorun (Posts: 2926; Member since: 30 Mar 2015)


System wide encryption with a copy of the key in the hand of the governement yeah..

Its easy to say on tv and news thats you are upset and blablabla when in the backend you still have full access..

Thats how you make population forget about how easily it is for gov to check you.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 09:53

25. waddup121 (unregistered)


ey. chill fam

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 07:04 5

4. Kruze (Posts: 1285; Member since: 30 Dec 2014)


Face it, in the tech world, everyone spies. If this is a big problem for you, go back to the Nokia 3310.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 07:19 4

8. techspace (Posts: 1027; Member since: 03 Sep 2012)


I don't think so....NSA records phone calls and collects SMSes.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 09:19

23. Pattyface (Posts: 1511; Member since: 20 Aug 2014)


You don't think everyone spys? Only the NSA?

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 20:59

36. techspace (Posts: 1027; Member since: 03 Sep 2012)


Actually, I am trying to say that most governments spy on the phone calls and smses as well...so even those Nokia 3310s are vulnerable.
I give more examples of the NSA because it's more popular and perhaps the biggest of all the spying organizations.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 10:25

27. totex71 (Posts: 9; Member since: 19 Feb 2014)


Its a matter of respect for eachother as human beings. You don't have that if you snoop around in people's private stuff. theres no execuses. this is very childish behaviour of the governments. but sadly most people are to ignorant to care.
Why would you allow them to carry all your private info which in case could be leaked and used against you etc etc.. theres no execuses for spying.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 07:05 2

5. hound.master (Posts: 1044; Member since: 27 Feb 2015)


Well yeah but isn't it the thing that all government wants!
I'm sure China phones has one it's not surprising at all that a phone maded by a government or under government supervision have a backdoor for them.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 07:07 3

6. hung2900 (Posts: 943; Member since: 02 Mar 2012)


I laughed so hard at the Soviet Union's flag.

posted on 02 Jun 2015, 03:40

38. AlikMalix (Posts: 4855; Member since: 16 Jul 2014)


Yeah, showing that flag is the same as showing the confederate flag when talking about USA... USSR is done. It is Russia now... (completely different society, but yes some communistic rust still lingers, but in the shadows)...

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 07:53

11. NopeNein (Posts: 147; Member since: 04 Feb 2015)


WTF? nobody's surprised by this. XD we all know this PA,

all hail master putin.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 08:03

12. NopeNein (Posts: 147; Member since: 04 Feb 2015)


well, not me atleast.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 08:07 2

14. NopeNein (Posts: 147; Member since: 04 Feb 2015)


atleast they're honest about it, soo...there's one.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 10:47

29. hound.master (Posts: 1044; Member since: 27 Feb 2015)


Oh it's so funny.
You first comment then comment on your comment cause you forget sth and then when your angers go down you start thinking and make a comment again.(~.^):D

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 15:28

33. Mels13 (Posts: 89; Member since: 23 Jun 2014)


Everytime we said heil obama cuz usa spies on all phones.Russia did the same just protect itself.so why we should give yotaphone up? The same way we must reject apple etc.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 08:06

13. mike2959 (Posts: 506; Member since: 08 Oct 2011)


At least he has the balls to just say it.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 08:23

15. DBounce (Posts: 144; Member since: 26 Apr 2014)


Every piece of electronics made in China has a backdoor courtesy of the Chinese government. That includes iPhone.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 08:40

16. Neros (Posts: 1016; Member since: 19 Dec 2014)


Same goes for the Chinese oems.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 08:50 2

17. Oneight (Posts: 32; Member since: 04 Apr 2015)


OMG! Putin has given Yotaphone 2 to Xi JinPing, the president of China as a present.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 09:01 1

19. Victor.H (Posts: 632; Member since: 27 May 2011)


Right, there's that also.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 09:08 2

20. RaKithAPeiRiZ (Posts: 1488; Member since: 29 Dec 2011)


In Soviet Russia , YotaPhone use you

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 09:16

21. Pattyface (Posts: 1511; Member since: 20 Aug 2014)


Effing Russia, maybe they should put a picture on the back of the phone of puttin riding a horse bareback

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 09:17 1

22. Kanehuge (Posts: 2; Member since: 01 Jun 2015)


And I think honesty died. If someone thinks that he is safe from spying by using iPhone he is just fooling himself.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 09:39

24. SaintMarks (Posts: 20; Member since: 25 May 2015)


Is this really surprising? Our TVs, stoves and washing machines are already spying on us.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 10:06

26. LuckyS (Posts: 154; Member since: 07 Dec 2013)


You Bulgarians really hate Russians.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 11:59

30. Pattyface (Posts: 1511; Member since: 20 Aug 2014)


Yes they are the only ones that hate Russia

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 10:32

28. newuser1 (Posts: 195; Member since: 10 Dec 2010)


NSA is tracking you now with out need of a backdoor .

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 13:40

31. lyndon420 (Posts: 3730; Member since: 11 Jul 2012)


This has nothing to do with tracking terrorists...It's about getting the mass population to willingly give up their privacy rights. Ever since the government brought down the world trade centers (they also created ISIS) people have been so mislead by this fake war on terror, not many people see how the government has put us into a soft state of Marshall Law. This year (and especially next year) has a lot of surprises in store for all of us sheep.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 15:24

32. Mels13 (Posts: 89; Member since: 23 Jun 2014)


Apple and other phones r the same spied by Usa.So we can say heil obama like that

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 16:18

34. lyndon420 (Posts: 3730; Member since: 11 Jul 2012)


Lies....all lies!!

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 18:36

35. nonyam (Posts: 1; Member since: 01 Jun 2015)


Court order required? Like a real court?

So, like the US and every phone sold in the US (CALEA 1994 - look at current FCC regulations for CALEA), but unlike the US, they need a warrant?

LoL Funny stuff, comrade.

posted on 03 Jun 2015, 10:30

39. Gumby (Posts: 1; Member since: 03 Jun 2015)


The NSA already has "back door" implants in surgical medical instruments including the bronchosope and colonoscope. If you ever need to have a colonoscopy to check for colon cancer, the NSA will be right along wth you. The NSA can not only watch your every move, but can watch your every bowel movement through YOUR back door. The real anal probes from the NSA.

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