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Russian Minister Backtracks on U.S. Tech Products Security

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MOSCOW--Russia's communications minister on Wednesday backtracked from comments that government agencies and state-owned companies would steer clear of U.S.-made technology products amid concerns over data security.

In comments posted on his Twitter feed Monday, Nikolai Nikiforov said that reports of increased surveillance by U.S. special forces would "spell the death of further use of software and hardware from the U.S. by the state sector in Russia."

On his @nnikiforov feed, he cited a front-page article by The Wall Street Journal, which said that U.S. spy agencies and military are rushing to expand satellite coverage and communications-interception efforts across Russia, Ukraine and the Baltics following Moscow's occupation of the now annexed region of Crimea. The move was made to provide better intelligence on Russia's possible intentions in the region.

His Twitter comments read: "Americans are openly announcing a massive information intelligence effort against Russia."

On Wednesday, he said this meant that Russian companies should be more careful in their choice of hardware and software, but that it didn't amount to a ban on using such products.

State agencies and companies should "very carefully treat their choice of information technology partners," when "certain countries may launch a massive information intelligence effort on the territory of Russia," he said Wednesday, according to the communications ministry.

Mr. Nikiforov said the ministry has no intention of introducing any sanctions against foreign software companies at this stage.

Many Western countries have imposed sanctions against Russia, which has since been excluded from the Group of Eight leading nations.

"The message [...] that American [special] services are planning to significantly boost the volume of information intercepted from Russia, obviously causes serious concern among many Russian state companies," the minister said Wednesday.

Mr. Nikiforov said state companies should be especially careful in choosing foreign partners for work in sensitive areas, such as strategic information systems, adding that buying software shouldn't be limited to U.S.-made products.

Moscow has already dropped using Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iPads in favor of tablets made by South Korean rival Samsung Electronics (SSNHZ), citing security concerns.

Mr. Nikiforov denied the measure was aimed at introducing any limitations or sanctions against the U.S. company.

Write to Olga Razumovskaya at Olga.Razumovskaya@wsj.com

 

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 26, 2014 12:45 ET (16:45 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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