Google and Apple must shut down the services underlying the Russian military in their war against Ukraine, according to a report by a group of experts set up by Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president.
Western companies, including “tech giants” such as Google, Microsoft, Meta and Apple, continue to provide hardware, software and services that are helping the Russian military and government, said the international sanctions working group. Ukrainian government.
The report, released Thursday, said that most of the products and services created by major tech companies fall outside the current sanctions regimes imposed on Russia by the West, leaving companies to decide how to proceed.
The study, led by leading lawyers, economists, technology experts and diplomats, called on technology companies to “limit the damage their technology causes to the Ukrainian people and the cost incurred by the populations of sanctioned nations in paying for the damage this technology does. allows on Ukrainian soil “.
“Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, most of the services of major foreign technology companies continue to be available to existing customers in Russia,” the report said. “Russian devices continue to receive software updates / patches and continue to be exploited for battlefield uses by the Russian government.”
“Central Technologies for Russia’s War Efforts”
The report by the Yermak-McFaul International Expert Group on Sanctions – co-chaired by Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential office, and Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Russia – said that the same technologies that permeate our lives are central to Russia’s war efforts.
Devices such as smartphones, mobile operating systems and cloud services are being reused for “battlefield communications” and “real-time reconnaissance” purposes.
The study called on Western tech companies to “disable” key services that assisted the Russian military. “To the extent that it relies on technology running through smartphones and similar devices for retail end users, the deadly operations of the Russian military in Ukraine rely on the panoply of foreign IT services present on foreign devices,” he said. “Foreign companies can disable key services on these devices making them largely unusable for military purposes.”
The working group made similar claims about email, content sharing, and secure communication technologies. For example, the report claims that large social media platforms have facilitated Russia’s ability to “spread disinformation beyond Russia’s borders.”
The report stated that technology from Western tech giants could indirectly facilitate Russian cyber attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure: “Russia relies on foreign IT to command and control its armed forces, fire its weapons, perform reconnaissance, control information space, attacking Ukrainian cyber and civilian infrastructures and protecting their own infrastructure.
“The foreign technology used by Russia includes everything from advanced email servers, network management capabilities, smart devices, software-as-a-service applications, cryptographic services and video streaming to Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing (CAD / CAM) and BIM (Building Information Modeling) functionality, robotic components, device controllers and design, manufacturing and engineering simulation software “.
A nice balancing act
The report acknowledged that tech companies faced a nice balancing act, with several large companies like Google and Microsoft also playing a leading role in helping the Ukrainian government protect itself from identified cyber threats.
The group called on the West to “block the ability of the Russian government and its partners to use or procure IT that contains software, firmware and components that have been manufactured or contain intellectual property from any sanctioning nation.”
The report also called for a ban on the sale of basic consumer goods to Russia that are absorbed into the manufacturing and repair lines of military equipment. “The Russian military-industrial complex has resorted to using consumer electronics microchips to manufacture / repair certain types of weapon systems,” the report said.
“Consumer digital cameras appear in its flagship drones. At this point, any foreign technology – either knowledge transfer or digital infrastructure – could be used to support Russian military activity in Ukraine.
“It is imperative that Russia should not access any IT in any form or form that plays a role, or can replace any element that plays a role, in supporting the Russian war in Ukraine,” the report said.
Appeal to tighten sanctions
Mr. Yermak said: “The results of this report are disturbing. I appeal immediately to all Western governments to tighten the sanctions regime against Russia. I also urge all Western companies to consider what more they can do to put an end to this shameful war of aggression ”.
McFaul said: “These companies are not fundamentally malicious. But as the war continues, there is a need to assess the direct and indirect damage associated with the continued availability of certain infrastructure and services within Russia and any potential ambiguity in the use of their technology.
“We trust that these companies – and the thousands of others still engaged in the technology ecosystem in support of Russia – will want to work in good faith with the governments of the sanctioning nations to find quick, effective and comprehensive solutions to limit further damage.”
Google, Meta, Microsoft and Apple have been contacted for comment.