Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly just did something he should’ve done the day he took his job. He banned the use of personal devices by staff and guests in the White House. The ban will go into effect in the coming days, and the reason is obvious: security. But, c’mon, how is the Trump administration just now realizing this?
The ban comes just a couple weeks shy of a year after Trump’s inauguration, and we might never know how much damage the use of unsecured personal devices did to the country. The fact of the matter is that the Samsung Galaxy a random White House staffer bought at Best Buy is not the only thing vulnerable to hackers: these unsecured devices put the entire White House network at risk. One unnamed official told Bloomberg that there are just “too many devices connected to the White House wireless network.” Which is an annoying problem at Starbucks. At the White House, this is a national security concern.
Nevertheless, staffers are apparently mad about the change because it’s inconvenient. Here’s Bloomberg again:
Aides who opposed the ban said they cannot use their work phones for personal use, and that work phones can’t accommodate texting. They believe the ban will be a hardship because texting is often the easiest way for their families to reach them in the middle of a busy day of meetings.
But let me reiterate a simple point: national security is more important than Trump aides being able to send text messages to their kids. Sorry, when you work at what’s arguably the most important building in the country, there are rules. At least there are now that John Kelly is imposing them.
This new rule has been a long time coming, too. While White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement today that the “security and integrity of the technology systems at the White House is a top priority for the Trump administration,” this simply isn’t true. “The security and integrity of the technology systems at the White House” has never been a top priority for the Trump administration. It only took two weeks after Trump’s inauguration for Cory Louie, the White House’s chief information security officer, to lose his job. It’s unclear if he quit or got fired, but he was never replaced.
Even without someone in charge of network security at the White House, plenty of people have been warning that Trump aides should not be using personal phones or personal email addresses. Around the same time Louie was shown the door, over a dozen members of Congress sent a letter to the House Oversight committee calling for an investigation into Trump’s use of an unsecured, outdated Android phone for his tweets. A month later, a report emerged that White House staffers were using encrypted messaging apps on personal phones to communicate, an act that may have been illegal. Two months after that, intelligence officials raised alarm over Trump’s habit of using his personal cell phone to call world leaders. And a few months after that, the National Security Agency (NSA) warned Jared Kushner and other White House officials against using personal emails for official business. Yes, this is the exact same thing that Trump lambasted Hillary Clinton for doing when he was on the campaign trail.
These are just a few of the security risks we know about. We don’t know if there have already been breaches. We do know that Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s “Winter White House,” has abysmal cybersecurity, because Gizmodo reporters uncovered multiple vulnerabilities last year with the help of ProPublica.
Every day of the Trump administration feels like taking a dive into a pool of crazy pills. The upside to today is that the new White House ban on personal phones is actually a step in the right direction. Now if we could just keep President Trump from inciting nuclear war with North Korea, that would be terrific.