Russia will fork Sailfish OS to shut out pesky Western spooks

Paranoia over NSA tampering spurs de-Westernisation drive

Russia's Minister of Communications and Mass Media, Nikolai Nikiforov, has taken part in talks to form a consortium that will aid Russia in developing a custom mobile OS, reportedly a forked version of Jolla's Sailfish OS, to lessen its dependence on Western technology.

Nikiforov held a working meeting last week with the leadership of Hong Kong-based Sailfish Holdings, developer of the quietly admired Sailfish OS.

Alongside other participants, the parties involved discussed the use of open-source software in the public and private sectors, taking into account technical, economic and political factors, the latter of which is expected to include United States' interference with exported technologies.

Russian officials swapped their iPads for Samsung tablets last year due to concerns about Cupertino's proximity to the NSA.

Declarations that Russia would develop its own ARM chippery last year, as well as the development of the Elbrus 4c CPUs – which went on sale earlier this month – suggests an established state fear of NSA backdoors.

Nikiforov talked of further developing an international consortium amongst the emerging BRICS economies, which would collaborate towards the industrial development of "alternative software products", saying "[The BRICS countries] share our concern about the current de facto monopoly of the global software market and support us in this matter."

"Sailfish Holding is already an international company in its ownership structure. In addition to Finland, it has both Russian and Chinese shareholders."

Nikiforov announced that the ministry expected to see shares also extended to strategic investors from India, Brazil and South Africa, saying (via machine translation), "We expect soon to see shareholders Developer Sailfish mobile OS also strategic Indian, Brazilian and South African investors."

While fears of NSA intrusion into Russian systems have become widespread following Edward Snowden's surveillance disclosures, claims of cyber-conflict are very bidirectional between Russia and the US. Hackers reportedly nabbed President Obama's emails earlier this year, although those hackers' links to the Kremlin are unconfirmed – as, indeed, is the entire breach.

Russia is known to have strong offensive capabilities, and is alleged to be providing malware to sympathetic cybercrims and nationalists to further its intentions in Ukraine. ®

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