Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's personal BlackBerry was likely considerably less secure than a government-issued device, though no instrument would have been beyond the hacking capabilities of foreign intelligence services, according to Politico.
"Unless you've provided your personal phone to the State Department to put all the appropriate levels of encryption on it, you'll be more vulnerable," a former official of the department's Diplomatic Security Service told Politico.
Clinton might have been particularly vulnerable to having her communications hacked while she was abroad, chiefly in countries where the government also controls telecommunications.
The secretary and her entourage would have been routinely briefed about potential security threats to her communications.
Clinton has said that she refrained from using her private phone for classified communications.
Intercepted nonclassified emails and discussions, however, can also provide useful intelligence to espionage agencies about the decision-making processes of senior government officials, according to Politico.
Discovering a security breach can take a large organization about a month. Individuals may never figure out that their phone or personal server has been penetrated, security experts told Politico.
BlackBerry systems can be well-secured, but protection levels depend on knowing which of 600 "IT policies" should be turned on. Large organizations can purchase access to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which encrypts email. But most private individuals would find doing so prohibitively expensive, Politico reported.
Security expert Stephen Perciballi
told the news website: "My first question would be was she using a [BlackBerry Enterprise] Server. If so, that would be 80 percent better."
Using government equipment is still no guarantee against penetration. The State Department's unclassified email system was compromised in 2014 and had to be temporarily taken down, Politico reported.
Michelle Van Cleave, a former counterintelligence official in the George W. Bush administration, told Politico that the best advice she could give someone in Clinton's position is to assume foreign spy agencies are listening and reading all their communications — regardless of the device being used.
Clinton has said that "robust protections were put in place" and that "third party experts" were involved in making sure her communications were secure, Politico reported.
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