Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

1/27/2017
06:20 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Are Security Concerns Over Trump’s Android, Twitter Use Overblown?

Security experts say it's hard to know for sure without further details.

Some concerns aired lately about potential security implications of President Trump’s use of his Twitter account and apparently an old personal Android smartphone could be based on incomplete information security experts said this week.

Several media reports in recent days have noted Trump’s apparent use of an old and unsecured Android device to post his tweets. Android Central analyzed a couple of photos of Trump using the phone and surmised that it most likely was a Samsung Galaxy S3 released back in 2012, and which hasn’t received any software updates since at least 2012.

Trump was rumored to have turned in the phone for an encrypted US Secret Service-approved device soon after being sworn in as President. But in an interview with The New York Times earlier this week, he seemed to indicate that he still had the old Android and was apparently using it to post on Twitter.

In a separate story, The New York Times described Trump’s alleged use of the old Android as a practice that could expose him and the nation to multiple security threats. The Times cited experts as worrying over whether the device and its contents were properly encrypted, whether it was open to hacking on cellular and Wi-Fi networks, and its susceptibility to location tracking.

Famed cryptographer Bruce Schneier expressed concern about the potential for the phone to be used for eavesdropping, if indeed Trump was using the phone as reported. Meanwhile, there were reports this week that Trump’s official @POTUS Twitter account was possibly connected to a personal Gmail account belonging to White House social media director Dan Scavino - claims that stirred additional security concerns.

A Twitter user with the handle WauchulaGhost noted the problem in how Trump’s Twitter account was secured and that of multiple other Twitter accounts belonging to people close to the President. On Thursday, Trump’s @POTUS account was linked to a White House email account after several media reports had raised the issue.

While such issues are important, the real question is to what extent they are being allowed to become a security problem, several experts said.

"The White House has a solid security team," says Eddie Schwartz, president and COO of White Ops Inc. "It's unlikely they and more senior officials would not have briefed the President or his aides on the risks of their personal devices."

At a minimum, they would have taken steps to lock down personal devices or keep them out of controlled access areas where classified material is discussed, Schwartz says.

Multiple measures are also available to shore up security on off-the-shelf devices like the aging Android that the President is reported to be using, he says. This can include measures like implementing data encryption at rest and in transmission, the use of a secure OS like Knox, and device configuration management.

"Certain hardware and software platforms have more problems than others," he says. "But I’m confident that the White House has access to all the vulnerabilities that are known by the government."

Morey Haber, vice president of technology at BeyondTrust, said it's hard to believe that the Secret Service and the NSA would allow the President direct access to an unsecure device with an unsecure set of credentials based on a commercial Gmail account. It is also very likely that someone other that Trump is tweeting the messages on his behalf, Haber says. The President himself will likely only be allowed to use an authorized Blackberry or STIG-hardened Android device, he noted.

"I have no insight or inside information into what device President Trump really is using," notes John Pescatore, director of emerging security threat at SANS Institute. But it isn’t unusual at all for a C-level executive or a Command-in-Chief to refuse to be dictated a security function.

If that is the case, "I hope that President Trump is at least using a single-purpose device only for Tweeting and using the strongest authentication possible," he says, noting Twitter’s available two-factor verification process. Ideally, the President would be using an authorized device that is locked down and monitored and kept secure.

"That said, he has been a prolific Tweeter for many years and doesn’t seemed to have fallen to attacks before," Pescatore says. "He may be unusually security-aware or just unusually lucky."

Either way, it is up to the President to set the standard in secure communications from the top-down, according to Pescatore.

Related stories:

 

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
ClarenceR927
50%
50%
ClarenceR927,
User Rank: Strategist
1/30/2017 | 8:52:15 AM
No, they are not being overblown
No.

This has been another episode of simple answers to simple questions.

 

If you really need to be reminded President Trump is the guy that claimed he does not need security briefings because he is "a smart guy". Do you think he listens to the security experts avialable to him? If he did has he given any indication at all that he could retain and process that information? Any sign that he would behave in any way other than how he has previously?
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2017 | 12:18:39 PM
White House Social Media Tweet
FWIW: He's apparently since deleted it (along with all Tweets except the last five, as of this posting), but I could have sworn that I remembered seeing a recent Tweet from Dan Scavino, White House social media director, expressly telling reporters that the White House/Administration had "zero interest" in discussing social media security issues.

If it wasn't Scavino, it was somebody else close to the Administration, but I'm pretty sure it was him.
Commentary
Ransomware Is Not the Problem
Adam Shostack, Consultant, Entrepreneur, Technologist, Game Designer,  6/9/2021
Edge-DRsplash-11-edge-ask-the-experts
How Can I Test the Security of My Home-Office Employees' Routers?
John Bock, Senior Research Scientist,  6/7/2021
News
New Ransomware Group Claiming Connection to REvil Gang Surfaces
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  6/10/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Google's new See No Evil policy......
Current Issue
The State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
In this report learn how enterprises are building their incident response teams and processes, how they research potential compromises, how they respond to new breaches, and what tools and processes they use to remediate problems and improve their cyber defenses for the future.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-24368
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-20
The Quiz And Survey Master – Best Quiz, Exam and Survey Plugin WordPress plugin before 7.1.18 did not sanitise or escape its result_id parameter when displaying an existing quiz result page, leading to a reflected Cross-Site Scripting issue. This c...
CVE-2021-31664
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-18
RIOT-OS 2021.01 before commit 44741ff99f7a71df45420635b238b9c22093647a contains a buffer overflow which could allow attackers to obtain sensitive information.
CVE-2021-33185
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-18
SerenityOS contains a buffer overflow in the set_range test in TestBitmap which could allow attackers to obtain sensitive information.
CVE-2021-33186
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-18
SerenityOS in test-crypto.cpp contains a stack buffer overflow which could allow attackers to obtain sensitive information.
CVE-2021-31272
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-18
SerenityOS before commit 3844e8569689dd476064a0759d704bc64fb3ca2c contains a directory traversal vulnerability in tar/unzip that may lead to command execution or privilege escalation.