It’s a familiar, and disheartening, refrain to most cybersecurity pros when smartphone users reject stringent security features because they’re just “too inconvenient.” But when it’s repeated by the president of the United States, as allegedly was recently the case, it sets alarm bells clanging.
While Barack Obama’s Blackberry use was restricted during his presidency and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was pilloried for using her private smart device for work, President Trump still wields at least two devices issued to him by the government – one for phone calls and the other that lets him access Twitter and some news sites, Politico reported Tuesday.
The report cited officials as saying that the call phone had a camera and mic – which could be vulnerable to surveillance – and the “Twitter” phone isn’t swapped out regularly. Obama’s phone was swapped out monthly on the insistence of his security team.
After explosive excerpts from an upcoming book on the Trump administration were published earlier this year and reports noted that author Michael Wolff taped interviews, the White House finally banned staffers in January from using their personal cellphones as it said it would do in 2017.
At the time, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that since the “security and integrity of the technology systems at the White House is a top priority for the Trump administration” that all personal devices belonging to “guests and staff will no longer be allowed in the West Wing.”
Last fall, noting that government-issued phones, which among other things don’t allow users to text, are more secure than personal devices, Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly reportedly expressed support for a ban.
After it came to light that Kelly’s smartphone was hacked by potentially by foreign operatives, the Secret Service reportedly put the kibosh on personal devices in the West Wing.
In a memo sent to agents in early October 2017, the protective service introduced a “restrictive policy” that required personal devices to “either be secured and provided lock boxes … or turned off completely prior to entering the West Wing,” reported MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
Kelly’s personal phone was hacked, possibly as far back as December 2016 and, the chief of staff, who typically used his government-issued phone, apparently switched personal devices.