President Donald Trump is once again making headlines for the staggering carelessness of his smartphone use, leaving himself vulnerable to any number of hacks and security risks.
This latest update comes from Politico, which details how Trump is using at least two phones, neither of which have the sort of security features that you would expect a president to have. What’s more, the president reportedly refuses to allow his staff to strengthen the security of his phones.
We already knew Trump had an iPhone that was pretty much limited to Twitter and a handful of apps. (We’ll call it the Tweet Phone.) Politico reports that he also has been issued a phone that can only make calls. (We’ll call this one the Hannity Phone.)
Okay, so, two phones. Fine, whatever. But the part where Trump’s obstinance becomes a legitimate danger is that he reportedly refuses to swap out the phones for fresh devices, saying it’s “too inconvenient.” (A White House staffer said the Hannity Phone is swapped out regularly but that the Tweet Phone isn’t, thanks to unnamed security measures.)
His excuse is really an example of terrible negligence
In fairness, it’s hardly a surprise that a grandfather who invited Russian hackers to attack his opponent, blames hacking on 400-pound basement dwellers, and refers to “the cyber” would be really bad at keeping data secure.
But what’s galling here is that his excuse is another example of terrible negligence by many in the administration, not just a president who wouldn’t understand a VPN if someone made a reality show to explain it.
Concerns about how Trump uses his phones came up almost as soon as he was inaugurated. For example, he reportedly took his sweet time trading in his old, unprotected Android phone for the government-issued iPhone.
Then, in February 2017, there was enough buzz around poor presidential phone security that some U.S. senators demanded to know what, exactly, the White House was doing to protect Trump’s phone.
Their concerns were punctuated by reports that, at Mar-A-Lago, several White House aides used their smartphones to literally shed light on confidential documents related to a North Korea missile launch so Trump could read them in a dark restaurant, apparently unaware that smartphone cameras can be hacked and used for spying. (There are even how-to videos on YouTube.)
Oh, and speaking of Mar-A-Lago, a Gizmodo/ProPublica report in May 2017 showed how extremely vulnerable Trump’s home-away-from-DC was to hacking, from accessing Wi-Fi networks with relative ease to an internet-connected printer that could yield previously printed documents. And these exploits were found at other Trump properties, as well.
Additionally, there have been the ongoing internal battles over leaks in the White House, which led some aides to use encryption-based messaging app Confide. At the time, some suggested that app wasn’t as secure as it claimed. (This, in turn, led to the White House threatening to confiscate cell phones in a total crackdown.)
So, a White House that can’t even be trusted to keep its cybersecurity in order internally is apparently letting a president who understands tech less than your average eight-year-old run rampant through “the cybers” willy-nilly with no supervision at a time when the nation is extremely vulnerable to all sorts of cyberattacks.
What could possibly go wrong?