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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Cell Phones May Allow Hackers to Infiltrate White House

On May 22, Politico released a story on Donald Trump’s use of cell phones as the President of the United States. According to Politico, Mr. Trump is using cell phones that lack the security features necessary for the commander in chief, as two of his senior administration officials claim. This is news to the public, as the presidents before him were under scrutinized security with their use of new and developing technology.

The President uses two iPhones for official duties, one for Twitter and news sourcing and one strictly for calls. These phones are issues directly from the White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency. Trump has been advised by various officials to swap out the phones every month to ensure they aren’t susceptible to hackers, but he claims that doing so would be bothersome to him. Politico goes on to claim that it has been over five months since the phones have been checked by security officials. Due to the advanced features of Trump’s cell phone, including a camera, which former presidents did not have, could lead hackers straight to an opening to gain access to the device.

Former security officials on both sides agree that President Trump’s reluctance to implement security measures is risky and leaves the technology vulnerable to hacking. According to friends and top officials close to Trump, he contacts them at all times, from either a blocked number or a number with a 202 area code, which his aides confirm changes occasionally. The issue with Trump’s use of the cell phone relates to the national security risk it poses. If those with whom he’s talking are not following security measures themselves.  If those with whom he’s talking to aren’t protected, hackers can easily hack into their phones and listen in on those conversations with the President. In fact, as New York Magazine claims, the President routinely speaks to Fox news anchor Sean Hannity. This could pose serious security threats, if hackers were able to gain access to Hannity’s phone and information that he gets from the president.

After the Politico piece was published, the White House fired back. According to a senior official that spoke to ABC, “the White House is confident in the security protocols in place for the President’s use of communications devices”. They argue that due to the fast-paced nature of technology, comparing the security features of Donald Trump’s cell phone as the President to the security features of former President Barack Obama’s cell phones is unfair, but that the 45th President’s cell phone security was more secure than those of the 44th president.

That statement came the same day that the Washington Post published a piece claiming that the FBI exaggerated the amount of deices that they were locked out of due to encryption methods last year. Apparently, the FBI were locked out of no more than 2,000 of the 7,800 devices that it claimed it had been locked out of. The FBI continues to push for laws that require “back doors” into the cell phones of suspected criminals, whereas cell phone and technology companies refuse, citing weakened security for users. Despite the miscount, the FBI continues to describe encryption as a threat.

This is further proof that Donald Trump’s use of cell phones without proper security features put our country at risk. If criminals can have their devices secure to protect them from the FBI, then Mr. Trump should ensure that his communications devices are secure to protect him (and the rest of the country that he is the face of) from hackers.

Although Mr. Trump isn’t using a cell phone booster or public WIFI, he is still as vulnerable to hacking as the rest of us. Until he follows the advice of his advisers, the security of his cell phone and all of the information that is on it is at risk. Legislators on both sides of the fence, including his family and friends, should push and should urge Mr. Trump to use safer security measures with his cell phones. If hackers were to hack or infiltrate his Twitter, the world could see national secrets, which include security measures and defense tactics. With the rising creation of new technological advances, laws and protocols for security of these devices should be created for when public officials use them. That means that even the city mayor and interns should be required to implement certain security measures on the technology that they use in their government work. Swapping out cell phones on a regular basis to check for security threats may be inconvenient to Mr. Donald Trump, but it protects the United States from foreign spies and invaders. With more protocol required, it would ensure that no government official is at risk of being hacked by any official, domestic or foreign.

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