Score one for BlackBerry’s vaunted security.
The New York Times is today reporting that an “intrusive and worrisome” breach of the White House’s computer system that originated from Russia did not reach the servers that control traffic to President Barack Obama’s BlackBerry.
The Times, quoting “senior American officials briefed on the investigation”, says the breach did intercept emails belonging to people that Obama corresponds with, but say that no classified information was compromised.
“This has been one of the most sophisticated actors we’ve seen,” said one official.
“It’s the Russian angle to this that’s particularly worrisome”, added another.
The news comes on the heels of a mini-scandal in which Hillary Clinton admitted she had used her personal BlackBerry for state department business. Politico’s Joseph Marks, investigating the matter, concluded that Clinton’s device was likely less secure than State Department-issued devices.
The digital era has presented a myriad of challenges in protecting the highly sensitive data of political leaders. Some have dealt with it by simply abstaining. Bill Clinton has famously only sent two emails in his life. And South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham recently said he has never sent an email.
Obama fought hard to keep his BlackBerry after taking office, but he had to make extra concessions.
Obama’s BlackBerry will reportedly only accept emails from a pre-approved list of addresses and he can only phone those colleagues whose phones have a security protocol that matches his. That protocol, reportedly, is called SecurVoice, and was developed by a company called The Genesis Key, which is believed to have worked in conjunction with BlackBerry engineers to supply Obama with a device that, to the outside world, looks like an ordinary BlackBerry.
Obama’s souped-up, security-first smartphone was reportedly deemed necessary by the Secret Service, NSA, and The White House Communications Agency. Other world leaders who use the devices include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Denmark Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British Prime Minister, David Cameron.
BlackBerry CEO John Chen has said that security is the company’s primary focus.
Below: Obama talks about his “old guy” BlackBerry with Jimmy Kimmel…
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