Government ministers in the United Kingdom cannot wear Apple Watches during Cabinet meetings under new rules designed to thwart Russian hackers, according to The Telegraph.
Cabinet ministers—members of Parliament who head executive departments like treasury and defense—were allowed to wear Apple Watches under former Prime Minister David Cameron. But the Telegraph, citing unnamed sources, says current Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is concerned that Russian hackers could use them as listening devices.
Cabinet meetings are typically held at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s rural estate about 40 miles north of London. Cell phones are also banned during meetings for similar reasons, the Telegraph reports.
The Cabinet ban comes as federal officials in the US say they are “confident” the Russian government is behind recent hacks of US political organizations like theDemocratic National Committee.
Though Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied any involvement in hacks of US targets, the Department of Homeland Security said the scope and sensitivity of the breaches indicate that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
Russian hackers also appear to be targeting similarly high-level victims in Europe. An investigation last week found that a 2015 attack on the transmitting software of one of France’s largest television stations, TV5Monde, was carried out by Russian hackers. They used malicious software to corrupt and destroy the Internet-connected hardware that controlled the TV station’s encoder systems used to transmit programs, according to the BBC.
There are also reports that the hacking group known as Fancy Bears, which has ties to Russia, planned to target the computer servers of the UK’s Home Office, Foreign Office and Ministry of Defense during last year’s general election.