Aides fret about President Trump's use of an unsecured Apple iPhone

Aides fret about President Trump's use of an unsecured Apple iPhone
Last year, we told you that there was some concern among members of the Trump administration that one of the two iPhone units then being used by the president was not secure. At the time, a senior official said that the handset used by Trump to send out tweets was supposed to be checked out every 30 days to look for signs that it was hacked. The president's other iPhone is regularly checked, but he has gone as long as five months without turning in the "Twitter" phone because he says that monthly checks are "too inconvenient."

The question of whether calls made over one of the president's iPhones are secure has come up again according to a fresh report in The Washington Post. Current and former officials say that the iPhone Trump uses to make calls to his attorney Rudy Giuliani, and to others, could be compromised. These officials believe that intelligence agencies in Russia and other foreign countries could be monitoring these conversations. The Post mentions that records of phone calls that were released this week by the House Intelligence Committee show that Trump made calls to Giuliani, unidentified people in the White House, and others involved in the alleged extortion of Ukraine without using any kind of encryption; the calls, by all indications, could easily have been listened to by foreign intelligence agencies. The report notes that Moscow might have been able to learn certain parts of the president's plan before a whistle-blower revealed the plot; the president has linked U.S. financial aid for Ukraine to a request that the country announce an investigation against his top political opponent.

Trump now uses a government-issued cellphone that is considered to be safer than his unsecured iPhone


"It’s absolutely a security issue," a former aide said. He calls Trump's actions  "a bonanza" for foreign intelligence agencies. Other former officials say that Trump has given out his cellphone number to several foreign leaders such as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Even though it isn't known whether Trump has spoken to these leaders on the unsecured device, four people in contact with Trump say that he still uses this handset regularly.


Two years ago, then chief of staff John Kelly and White House intelligence officials tried to get Trump to use a secure White House landline; they even tried to explain to the president how foreign intelligence agencies could listen in to calls made on his iPhone. While these officials say that Trump now uses a government cellphone that is considered safer than his iPhone, the latter is still used too often to soothe officials' fears.

Investigators for the House were able to subpoena the wireless carriers to receive information about phone calls made from Trump to Giuliani. This means that these conversations were not made over encrypted phone lines or apps such as WhatsApp. Calls made using that app would have benefited from end-to-end encryption and would not have shown up on the carriers' logs.

All this suggests that President Trump is not being as careful as he could and should be with his iPhone. But the problem is that even if Trump is using a secure line and the party on the other end-like Giuliani-is not using a secure phone, the conversation can be captured by foreign intelligence. Larry Pfeiffer, who was the senior director of the White House Situation Room during the Obama years, says, "Giuliani calling the president through the Situation Room does not guarantee any level of security because he’s using a commercial cellphone and at least part of his call is coming over commercial phone lines." While Trump's personal attorney is known for using WhatsApp, Pfeiffer adds, "I would not want to be trusting commercial encryption over government encryption when conducting national security business."

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