Though President Trump’s aides have repeatedly told him that he should not use an unsecured phone in the White House, they have had to resort to just hoping he doesn’t discuss classified matters via his cell phone, according to The Verge. He refuses to heed their warnings, taking calls on his personal cell phone rather than the secured White House landline, consequently giving foreign governments access to his personal communications and interests.
US Intelligence agencies are particularly concerned that Russia and China may be eavesdropping on such conversations, with China possibly listening in to better understand Trump’s behaviors and how to most effectively influence him.
China’s effort is a 21st-century version of what officials there have been doing for many decades, which is trying to influence American leaders by cultivating an informal network of prominent businesspeople and academics who can be sold on ideas and policy prescriptions and then carry them to the White House,” wrote The New York Times. “The difference now is that China, through its eavesdropping on Mr. Trump’s calls, has a far clearer idea of who carries the most influence with the president, and what arguments tend to work.”
It is relatively easy for US and foreign government agencies to tap into an iPhone caller’s conversations unless National Security Agency protections, which limit an attackers ability to exploit the device’s security vulnerabilities, have been installed on that phone. Of Trump’s three iPhones, only two have these protections installed, as Trump appreciates the fact that he can store contacts in an unsecured phone.
Listening to foreign leaders’ phone calls is known to be an effective spying technique, so previous presidents like Barack Obama used iPhones that were unable to take pictures or receive messages from anyone but a specific email address. These iPhones, though limited in features, limited any attackers ability to eavesdrop on leaders’ communication patterns. Though Trump does not text or use email on his unsecured phone, his failure to follow this protocol worries experts.