Wearing your Apple Watch to a UK Cabinet meeting is off the table over concerns Russians are hacking smartwatches to spy on foreign governments. The ban comes from UK Prime Minister Theresa May who is extending the scope of the smartphone ban put in place by her predecessor David Cameron, and most likely has banned other smartwatches, too.
Russian spying isn’t a new fear for the UK government and internet connected devices, like smartphones and smartwatches, have politicians worried about losing state secrets. “The Russians are trying to hack everything,” sources told the Telegraph.
Banning the Apple Watch from meetings may seem like overkill considering it’s an accessory device for the iPhone, and if iPhones are already banned then that ought to be enough. The Apple Watch can, however, connect to WiFi networks it already knows even when its paired iPhone isn’t available, and that could be part of the reason behind the ban.
On the other hand, politicians have a long track record of technology ignorance and likely don’t realize Apple Watch supports WiFi. That being the case, the ban has more to do with the microphones built into smartwatches because any device capable of recording could be seen as a security threat.
Even without WiFi available for remote eavesdropping, smartwatch spies can turn to the App Store and apps like Just Press Record, SimpleMic, and Smart Recorder. Along with audio recording, some offer built-in transcription, too.
Similar apps are available for other smartwatch platforms, too, which means the Prime Minister’s fear over spying better reach beyond Apple Watch. For that matter, her ban should include tablets, computers, and smartpens, too. That means no iPads, no Pebble smartwatches, and no Livescribe pens.
Considering one Prime Minister banned smartphones and then later another added smartwatches hints that they aren’t tech savvy enough to see where the potential espionage threats are. Still, this ban feels more like a reaction to electronic eavesdropping fears than an assault on Apple products.