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White House Communications Are Not Nearly as Secure as You Might Think

john kelly

In today’s society, everyone is keenly aware of what they need to do to protect themselves, in the event that their personal data gets stolen, or mishandled.  I mean, it’s Internet 101 right now.  We all know what we should be doing also.  For example, create long passwords that use multiple characters and symbols.  While I always joke that I don’t have any information worth stealing, that’s not completely true.  We all have information that is useful to someone somewhere.  Hackers can steal the information and then sell it to someone else.  Your personal data could be used to open up credit cards, and then use those credit cards in your name.  But obviously, not pay them back.  My point is, it’s very easy to get ahold of this information so protecting yourself is necessary.

When I heard, though, that someone in the White House had been hacked, I wasn’t really surprised.  Why?  Well, it seems that they don’t care about security the same way that the rest of us do.  Over the weekend, it was discovered that a personal email account of Chief of Staff, John Kelly, had been hacked.  This is being reported as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Buzzfeed.   In light of this discovery, John Kelly emailed the following to Buzzfeed regarding the hack:

“As we discussed… my folks are nervous about the emails you send and ask you to no longer include them on any postings.  Then there is hacking which one of my own personal accounts has suffered recently.  I do almost everything now by phone or face-to-face comms.”

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Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

But this isn’t news and it really shouldn’t be.  The FOIA email confirms previous reports from Politico in which they indicate Kelly had been using a compromised smartphone for months.  It’s possible that he had been using the compromised smartphone for much longer than that.  In fact, there were reports that the attack originally happened during Trump’s transition back in late 2016, while Kelly was secretary of homeland security.  This report hasn’t been confirmed, but it’s certainly a possibility.

What’s not clear is whether or not Kelly used his personal email account to conduct government business, or if there was any sensitive information on it.  Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, the NSA had reportedly told Trump administration officials to stop using personal cell phones and email accounts as they could be vulnerable to Russian and Chinese spies.  But again, this isn’t news as we’ve been hearing about this for a while now.  It almost seems like those in the White House don’t really care if their communications are hacked.  Perhaps it’s a strategy even?

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What is also not going to be a surprise to anyone, it’s believed that the weakest point in the White House is actually Trump himself.  Trump has gone on record and is refusing to upgrade his iPhones. What’s his rationale for this?  Honestly, it doesn’t make much sense.  In fact, Trump is saying that the process is “too convenient”.  Pardon?  Any time that someone has offered to make my life easier, I have jumped on that?  What’s worse is that, as of last month, he hadn’t had his phone checked by security experts in at least five months.

But to make matters worse, lawmakers are concerned about fake cell towers around the White House, which could be used to eavesdrop on smartphone calls.  Do you want to know why I think that Trump doesn’t care?  Because he wants to be hacked.  Or at least give the perception that he’s being attacked.  He can’t just give this information away to his cronies in Russia, so he has to put up some kind of false barriers that leave him open.  So when the hacks do occur, he at least has a scapegoat.