President Trump’s iPhone security practices are again making headlines. This time, The New York Times reports that American intelligence data suggests Chinese spies are often listening in when Trump makes calls to friends via his iPhone to “gossip, gripe, or solicit their latest take on how he is doing.”
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This isn’t the first time Trump’s iPhone security practices have made the news. Earlier this year, a report suggested Trump used two iPhones – including one for Twitter. Today’s story, however, paints a slightly different picture.
According to The New York Times, which cites “several current and former officials,” Trump currently uses three iPhones. Two of those are said to have been altered by the National Security Agency to limit their features, while the third is a “personal phone that is no different from hundreds of millions of iPhones in use around the world.”
Trump has been pressured into giving up his third iPhone, but he wants to keep it because “unlike his other two phones, he can store his contacts in it.” Further, Trump typically relies on his iPhones for calling when “he does not want a call going through the White House switchboard and logged for senior aides to see,” today’s report says.
The report explains that American spy agencies learned that China and Russia have eavesdropped on Trump’s iPhone calls from human sources inside foreign governments:
American spy agencies, the officials said, had learned that China and Russia were eavesdropping on the president’s cellphone calls from human sources inside foreign governments and intercepting communications between foreign officials.
China is said to have identified “a list of the people with whom Mr. Trump” speaks with most regularly, and hopes to use that list to “influence” the president. The Chinese government is using what it learns from eavesdropping on Trump’s calls to “keep a trade war with the United States from escalating further.”
The officials said they have also determined that China is seeking to use what it is learning from the calls — how Mr. Trump thinks, what arguments tend to sway him and to whom he is inclined to listen — to keep a trade war with the United States from escalating further.
In what amounts to a marriage of lobbying and espionage, the Chinese have pieced together a list of the people with whom Mr. Trump regularly speaks in hopes of using them to influence the president, the officials said.
Today’s report says Russia is not believed to be running “as sophisticated an influence effort as China” because of “Trump’s apparent affinity for President Vladimir V. Putin.”
The full report from The New York Times can be read here.