Modern presidents need modern cell phones. But those devices can become a security nightmare in the White House — especially if the president doesn't follow best practices.
Matthew Green, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University, told Newsy: "We know in the past presidents have had to use very secure devices: Obama famously wasn't allowed to bring his Blackberry into the White House. Trump has basically rejected that advice and said 'I'm going to use the phones that I use.' And there are good reasons for not doing that; those phones are not terribly secure."
A lot of the features we take for granted on a normal smartphone — cameras, GPS trackers, apps and so on — could pose serious security risks in the Oval Office.
President Obama ended up getting a smartphone with many of those features disabled or removed. He was unimpressed.
On "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," Obama said: "So basically it's like — does your three-year-old have one of those play phones?"Fallon responded: "That's what they gave the president?!"
President Trump has a different system set up. According to multiple reports, he currently has two official iPhones — one for making calls, another for tweeting and checking the news. The devices also have limited functionality, and are supposed to be replaced regularly.
But The New York Times reports Trump also has a third iPhone that he uses to make phone calls to his friends. That phone is said to be a standard, out-of-the box iPhone — which means it lacks the security protections of its government counterparts.
Green said, "The US government and the NSA has a bunch of secure cell phones, and they do end-to-end encryption. The idea is that if I make a phone call, then everything that's coming out of that phone is encrypted all the way to the person I'm talking to.""Unfortunately, that is very hard to build into commodity phones like iPhones. And so that's why if somebody wants to use a commodity phone, they're not going to be able to take advantage of those protections."
The Times report suggests foreign agencies are intercepting the contents of some of Trump's calls mid-transmission. The president reportedly isn't blabbing state secrets over the phone, but the Times says countries like China and Russia are using what they do intercept to plot out influence campaigns that could sway Trump's policymaking in their favor.
Trump has contested the Times report on Twitter, saying he only uses government-secured phones to make calls.