Microsoft employees in China forced to switch from Android to iPhones

Microsoft is requiring all of its employees in China to stop using Android phones for work and switch to Apple iPhones due to cybersecurity.

Microsoft employees in China must also use Microsoft’s Authenticator password manager and the Identity Pass app on their iPhones to verify their identity and sign in to their work devices. Access via Android is not available.

Microsoft has notified the hundreds of affected employees in an internal memo, Bloomberg reports. The employees will each receive an iPhone 15, which they can pick up at specific locations in China or Hong Kong. This means that phones such as those from Xiaomi, Huawei, Redmi, OnePlus and Oppo are no longer allowed.

In a statement to PCMag, Microsoft explained that the change is necessary because the now-required apps are only available through Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store. “Microsoft Authenticator and Identity Pass apps are officially available in the Apple and Google Play Stores. Due to the lack of availability of Google Mobile Services in this region, we wanted to provide employees with a way to access these required apps, such as on an iOS device,” the representative explained.

The move to security-based apps for employees in the region is part of Microsoft’s Secure Future Initiative, which the company launched in November 2023 to overhaul its cybersecurity standards. Despite the policy, however, Russian hackers still managed to compromise Microsoft’s corporate email systems earlier this year. A third-party cybersecurity firm also gained access to internal Microsoft data on an Azure cloud server that didn’t have a password in February.

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After a seven-month review, U.S. federal regulators in April said Microsoft must make “fundamental” reforms to its cybersecurity policies. The review board blamed Microsoft’s corporate culture for a China-backed email hack, in which Chinese hackers forged Microsoft authentication tokens to compromise U.S. government Outlook accounts.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from Microsoft.

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