Why it matters: Once again, Donald Trump is reportedly ignoring security protocols when it comes to using his mobile phones. A new story claims the president has refused to stop using his iPhones to make calls, despite warnings that Chinese and Russian agents are listening to everything he says.
According to The New York Times, Trump has three iPhones. Two of these are secure and include NSA protections that limit their risk of being compromised, while the third is a standard iPhone “that is no different from hundreds of millions of iPhones in use around the world.”
Trump has been asked to give up his third iPhone but wants to keep it as “unlike his other two phones, he can store his contacts in it.” And while he’s encouraged to use the White House’s secure landline for conversations, he reportedly doesn’t want the calls going through the switchboard and logged for senior aides to see.
US intelligence agencies believe spies from China and Russia are eavesdropping on Trump’s calls—even those using the secure iPhones—by intercepting them as they travel through national and international cellphone networks.
Security flaws in Signaling System No. 7 (SS7)—a telephony signaling protocol that allows the world’s cellular carriers to route calls, texts, and other services to each other—have been exploited in the past to intercept text messages, listen in on phone calls, and track users’ locations.
Trump apparently doesn’t use email, and the ability to send texts is disabled on the secure phones, which lessens the risk of security breaches, but foreign agents listening in on his calls is a concern. China, which has already labeled the report “fake news” and suggested Trump switch to a Huawei phone, is reportedly trying to learn more about the president’s behavior so it can deescalate the trade war, while Russia’s operation isn’t as sophisticated because of his “affinity” for Vladimir Putin, according to a former aide.