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


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.

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.


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36 Comments

1. FoneAddict

Posts: 263; Member since: Jul 05, 2011

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

2. tigermcm

Posts: 861; Member since: Sep 02, 2009

at least they are admitting it this early in the game

3. Victor.H

Posts: 1056; Member since: May 27, 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.

7. techspace

Posts: 1037; Member since: Sep 03, 2012

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

9. Napalm_3nema

Posts: 2236; Member since: Jun 14, 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.

10. techspace

Posts: 1037; Member since: Sep 03, 2012

I didn't know that...Thanks!

18. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 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.

25. waddup121 unregistered

ey. chill fam

4. Kruze

Posts: 1285; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

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

8. techspace

Posts: 1037; Member since: Sep 03, 2012

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

23. Pattyface

Posts: 1658; Member since: Aug 20, 2014

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

36. techspace

Posts: 1037; Member since: Sep 03, 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.

27. totex71

Posts: 9; Member since: Feb 19, 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.

5. hound.master

Posts: 1044; Member since: Feb 27, 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.

6. hung2900

Posts: 966; Member since: Mar 02, 2012

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

38. AlikMalix unregistered

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)...

11. NopeNein

Posts: 147; Member since: Feb 04, 2015

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

12. NopeNein

Posts: 147; Member since: Feb 04, 2015

well, not me atleast.

14. NopeNein

Posts: 147; Member since: Feb 04, 2015

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

29. hound.master

Posts: 1044; Member since: Feb 27, 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

33. Mels13

Posts: 116; Member since: Jun 23, 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.

13. mike2959

Posts: 694; Member since: Oct 08, 2011

At least he has the balls to just say it.

15. DBounce

Posts: 169; Member since: Apr 26, 2014

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

16. Neros

Posts: 1016; Member since: Dec 19, 2014

Same goes for the Chinese oems.

17. Oneight

Posts: 33; Member since: Apr 04, 2015

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

19. Victor.H

Posts: 1056; Member since: May 27, 2011

Right, there's that also.

20. RaKithAPeiRiZ

Posts: 1488; Member since: Dec 29, 2011

In Soviet Russia , YotaPhone use you

21. Pattyface

Posts: 1658; Member since: Aug 20, 2014

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

22. Kanehuge

Posts: 2; Member since: Jun 01, 2015

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

24. SaintMarks

Posts: 20; Member since: May 25, 2015

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

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