President Donald Trump still uses his personal iPhone when calling friends and business partners while in the White House. This gives Russian and Chinese spies easy access to his conversations and interests, The New York Times reported.
The report said that Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him not to use his personal mobile phone because it is susceptible to tapping by foreign intelligence.
Despite the warnings, the president continues to take calls using this device instead of using the more secure White House landline.
U.S. intelligence agencies have learned from foreign government sources that Chinese and Russian spies have eavesdropped on Trump’s calls.
The Chinese, in particular, monitor the U.S. president’s communications to gather information and insights about his thoughts on important trade decisions and to prevent further trade conflicts between China and the United States.
China’s intelligence has also reportedly established a list of people that Trump frequently speaks to and who can potentially influence him. These individuals include casino magnate Steve Wynn and Blackstone Group chief executive Stephen Schwarzman.
Schwarzman has endowed a master’s program at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. Wynn was CEO and chairman of Wynn Resorts and Wynn Macau before he resigned due to sexual misconduct allegations that he denies.
“The Chinese have identified friends of both men and others among the president’s regulars, and are now relying on Chinese businessmen and others with ties to Beijing to feed arguments to the friends of the Trump friends,” The New York Times reported.
The Russians are also likely listening but not trying as hard as China given the close ties between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump is reported to be carrying around three iPhones. Of these, only two have National Security Agency protections that can prevent communications from being intercepted and avert attacks that exploit device vulnerabilities.
The third one is no different from any other device used by millions of Americans every day. The president reportedly uses this to call people because he can store his contacts in it.
According to The New York Times, intercepting communications is relatively easy for the U.S. and other national governments, and tapping the phones used by foreign leaders is considered an effective form of modern spying.
Trump’s predecessors, including former President Barack Obama, relied on modified iPhones that could not make calls nor take pictures. These devices could only receive incoming messages from a special email address. These devices do not have microphones and texting was not allowed.