Chinese spies are often listening in on President Donald Trump’s conversations when he talks to friends on one of his iPhones, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
US intelligence agencies have learned from sources inside foreign governments that China and Russia have eavesdropped on Trump’s cell phone conversations and that China was using information gleaned from the calls to manipulate the president and current policy, the Times reported.
Trump’s alleged use of an unsecured phone comes after an election filled with hacks of the personal communications of Democratic political figures and organizations. Individual phones are easy to hack for anyone motivated enough, security experts say.
Trump has three iPhones, two of which are for official use and have been altered by the National Security Agency to limit their capabilities, officials tell the Times. The president keeps a third iPhone — no different from the millions of iPhones in use around the world — for personal use because, unlike the other phones, he can store contacts on them.
Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him foreign spies routinely listen in on his cell phone calls and pressed him to use his secure White House landline more often, but he still refuses to give up his iPhones, the Times reported. White House officials worry he might be overheard discussing classified information when he’s on them, the newspaper reported.
China is reportedly using the information to prevent further escalation of a trade war between the two countries. However, Russia isn’t suspected of running a similar influence effort due to Trump’s apparent admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former US official told the newspaper.
President Trump’s phone habits have raised security concerns before. Sens. Tom Carper and Claire McCaskill sent a letter last year to Secretary of Defense James Mattis about whether the president was using a secure device to make calls and post tweets. The senators, who both serve on the Homeland Security Committee, worried that an unsecured device could be vulnerable to hacking, posing a national security risk.
The Secret Service issued Trump a secured phone for his inauguration, but the president has also reportedly used an unsecured Android phone to tweet from the White House while watching television.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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