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SIGINT Agencies (and Hackers) of the World Unite…

Dec 2, 2017
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…President Obama is keeping his BlackBerry. As the AP reports:

The first family settled into their new lives in the White House on Thursday as President Barack Obama won an important personal victory: He gets to keep his BlackBerry.

Obama will be the first sitting president to use e-mail, and he has been reluctant to part with his ever-present handheld device. Its use will be limited to keeping in touch with senior staff and personal friends, said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

[snip]

“…the BlackBerry victory is a big concession. Obama said earlier that he was working with the Secret Service, lawyers and White House staff to keep the device.

Gibbs said the president will limit its use, and security has been enhanced to ensure that Obama can communicate in a way that’s protected. Only a small number of senior staff members and personal friends would be given his e-mail address.

Previous presidents chose not to use e-mail because it can be subpoenaed by Congress and courts and may be subject to public records laws. And Gibbs said the presumption from the White House counsel’s office is that Obama’s e-mails will be subject to the Presidential Records Act, which requires the National Archives to preserve presidential records.

But he also said there are exceptions for “strictly personal communications.”

There’s no mention of potential monitoring by hostile intelligence service, or attacks by computer hackers in the AP article. However, this account by the Atlantic’s Marc
Ambinder claims that Obama will carry a Blackberry with a “super encryption” package, probably developed by the National Security Agency.

Other source suggest that the agency has created a more secure pathway for Obama’s Blackberry traffic. E-mails from the commercial version of the PDA move across a server in Canada, raising more fears about potential intelligence collection.

A White House spokesman says that Obama’s BlackBerry will be used for “limited” communications with senior aides and a few close friends. However, there has been no confirmation that the President will “step up” to the most secure PDA, the General Dynamics Sectera Edge, a device that’s been approved by the NSA for Top Secret voice communications and the transmission of data (including e-mails) at the Secret level.

As for his beloved Blackberry, the Department of Homeland Security lists at least 14 vulnerabilities for the device, and some experts still worry about the PDA’s security, despite the NSA upgrade.

We’ll make a prediction: Mr. Obama will retain his BlackBerry until one of three events occurs: 1) His PDA communications becomes public; 2) They are subpoenaed as part of an investigation, or 3) the NSA Director quietly informs him of a security breach that has allowed foreign intelligence agencies to monitor his conversations and e-mail transmissions. At that point, the President will suddenly “retire” his BlackBerry.

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