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Trump feels presidential smartphone security is “too inconvenient”

Enlarge / President Donald Trump talks on an iPhone with a Morphie battery pack aboard Air Force One on January 26, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead) Hat tip to Ron Amadeo for identifying the phone. (credit: Official White House photo via GettyImages)

The mobile device habits of President Donald J. Trump have been an ongoing source of agitation for many, and not just because of his frequent blasts on Twitter. Getting Trump to adapt his device use to the potential security threats faced by a head of state has proven to be a challenge for the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) and the White House’s information technology team. Trump’s truculence has hamstrung efforts to secure his personal communications and may well have already have exposed them to domestic or foreign surveillance efforts by other governments—or just about anyone else with the ability to intercept cell calls and cellular data.

According to a report by Politico’s Eliana Johnson, Emily Stephenson, and Daniel Lippman, Trump has resisted all efforts to get him to use a secured mobile device, instead relying on a pair of off-the-shelf cell phones—one for Twitter only and the other for placing calls. And while the phones used for calls are treated to a degree as “burner phones”—with devices being swapped out regularly—Trump has pushed back on regular security checks and swap-outs of his Twitter phone, calling them “too inconvenient.” Two White House officials told Politico that Trump has gone as long as five months without having his Twitter device checked by IT or WHCA staff.

Because of the sensitivity of White House communications and their connection to national security, the WHCA is a military unit that falls under the Defense Information Systems Agency. DISA and the National Security Agency have worked together to develop secure mobile devices for national leadership; during the Obama administration, DISA launched the DOD Mobility Classified Capability-Secret (DMCC-S) program and an accompanying voice-only Top Secret device program (DMCC-TS). The Top Secret device is still in development, but former Secretary of State John Kerry was an early user of the DMCC-S device—a hardened Samsung Galaxy S4 device based on Samsung’s Knox security architecture.

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