Never mind Emailgate. Introducing Dumbphonegate.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was pilloried for using a homebrew server with unknown security features instead of the State Department’s secure system. Thousands of emails were potentially exposed. It was a big deal.
The act of hubris cost "Crooked Hillary" the election. And really, can you imagine if the president of the United States were to be guilty of such above-the-law arrogance?
Turns out, you don’t have to imagine it, because President Trump — at this very moment — is placing the nation in a compromised position as long as he refuses to surrender his phone.
Consider how many times past administrations have faced the threat of state-sponsored hacking. Got it? Now consider how important it is for the president to comply.
"These are the most beautiful phones I’ve ever used in my life," President Trump told the New York Times during a telephone interview this Tuesday. According to the Times, Mr. Trump was particularly remarking on the fact that they were secure from all stripes of snoops.
While it’s fantastic that the president loves his new phone system, there is still the major problem that he is courting near-certain telephonic disaster. Several news organizations have reported that Mr. Trump is still using his old unsecured Android phone — a Samsung Galaxy S3, first released in 2012 — to exercise his First Amendment Twitter magic on both @realDonaldTrump and the POTUS twitter account.
With no exaggeration, the nation’s security from threats at home and abroad are in the balance so long as President Trump continues to use an unsecured phone.
Here’s Why This Matters
The smartphones used by ranking government officials are not built the same as consumer phones. They have a reduced attackable surface, offering fewer ways to be hacked.
For instance, they don’t include cameras and microphones that can be potentially compromised and used to spy. They also can’t be tracked by Stingray, a law enforcement device that allows the user to pinpoint the location of a phone. Similar technology is used to target and kill enemy combatants in drone attacks.
Were the president to tweet using public WiFi, something that could happen at a public event, his phone and whatever was on it — presumably much of it classified given his new job description — would be gettable by the kinds of hackers that are pointed at such a high quality target. According to an article posted to Quartz, the president’s aides are more than a little concerned, and have protested against his continued use of the unsecured device.
This should not be a surprising set of circumstances given the president’s relationship with the digital world. The man who refers to information and cyber security under the umbrella rubric of "The Cyber," the fearless — or in this instance reckless — leader who often fires off incendiary (and often contradictory) tweets in the wee hours of the morning without benefit of counsel or normal diplomatic filters, is exactly the type of guy you might expect to impulsively dump information into an unsecured smartphone where any number of bad things could happen to it.
Why worry about his finger on the nuke button when it’s on the power button of his phone?
You Will Know Him by His Executive Orders
Security is not just spectacle. The best security is invisible. If your security system can be seen — and it’s not an ICBM pointed directly at the only threat in the world — chances are good it’s not working as well as it needs to.
President Trump has had a busy few days in office thus far, making good on his campaign promises like there’s no tomorrow — and if protests continue to grow and lawmakers decide their political survival lies in opposing the new president, there may well be no tomorrow.
But if you look at what he’s actually pushed through so far in the form of executive orders, it’s all the greatest hits from the campaign trail. In fact, it seems like Mr. Trump is following the common popular wisdom that the president’s main job is running for re-election.
What this means for "The Cyber" is nothing good. While the wall-less border between the U.S. and Mexico has been a deflated political football punted from decade to decade since the fall of the Alamo, never has our nation been more imperiled by the threat of state-sponsored and terrorist hacking.
If you want to know what President Trump really cares about, check out the tweets he’s sending from the Oval Office using an outdated consumer smartphone that makes Hillary’s homebrew email server look like Edward Snowden’s laptop.
Adam K. Levin is a consumer advocate with more than 30 years of experience and is a nationally recognized expert on security, privacy, identity theft, fraud, and personal finance. A former Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Levin is chairman and founder of CyberScout and co-founder of Credit.com. Levin is the author of Amazon Best Seller "Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves." Read more of his reports — Go Here Now.
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