Trump’s iPhone Is a Serious Risk
Since then, the White House has mostly gotten its act together. Staffers are now forbidden to bring personal cell phones into the West Wing, and the National Security Agency has issued the president with more secure phones for tweeting and making calls. But, according to the New York Times, Trump has continued to use his personal iPhone, despite insistent warnings that he could be jeopardizing national security. And he has persisted even after being told that China and Russia are listening in.
A former White House chief information officer says it may be the “most significant breach of White House communications in history.” By any reckoning, it’s a serious risk. An unsecured smartphone offers a rich target for motivated spies. They could track its location, steal data, monitor its keystrokes, or even requisition its camera and microphone. They could easily intercept calls made over a wireless network. It’s about the last thing you’d want in the vicinity of classified information or sensitive conversations.
Even if the president stuck to approved devices, serious threats would remain: Foreign intelligence agencies are sure to deploy their most secretive or expensive hacking tools in targeting a U.S. president. But Trump’s off-the-shelf personal phone is another matter entirely. Even if he didn’t discuss anything classified when using it, spy agencies are adept at gaining leverage and gleaning insight even from idle chatter. China’s eavesdropping has apparently informed its trade negotiations with Trump and provided a road map to his influential friends.
Despite some grumbling, Trump’s predecessor in the Oval Office used a phone that had its camera and microphone removed and its capabilities severely restricted; he didn’t use it to make phone calls. Trump has resisted such accommodations. It seems the phones provided by the NSA won’t let him store his contacts, so he’d have to dial his friends manually.
That would be annoying, no doubt. But it seems little to ask to protect national security.
Editorials are written by the Bloomberg View editorial board.
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