Security breach in the White House’s Situation Room

Graham Cluley

Security breach in the White House's Situation Room

Security breach in the White House's Situation Room

Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former arch-villain of US TV’s “The Apprentice” and estranged aide to President Donald Trump, claims to have made secret audio recordings of her White House colleagues that she is using to pump up interest in her tell-all book, “Unhinged: An Insider Account of the Trump White House”.

Omarosa bookOmarosa – who like Cher, Adele, and Madonna always seems to be referred to by her first name – has even released what claims to be a recording made in the White House’s famous Situation Room, where chief of staff John Kelly tells Omarosa that she is being fired.

All juicy stuff I’m sure, and great fodder for rolling news TV channels who will spend hours debating who is more trustworthy: Omarosa or Donald Trump.

But what I’m more interested in are the security implications.

In January, the White House announced – in an attempt to stem damaging leaks – that personal smartphones were now banned from the West Wing.

And yet a former reality TV star was able to sneak in her smartphone and record secret conversations in the Situation Room, supposedly the most secure place in the White House.

If that’s possible, then it’s easy to imagine that it would also be possible for a malicious hacker or foreign intelligence agency to compromise a member of staff’s personal smartphone, and use it to bug Trump’s White House.

It’s easy to be distracted by the Omarosa soap opera. The real story here is one of a security breach.

Graham Cluley Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

5 Replies to “Security breach in the White House’s Situation Room”

  1. No kidding – that was my first thought as well. I would think they would have something in place to detect unauthorized electronics. "The honor system" doesn't cut it for national security.

    Hopefully the "in the situation room" descriptor of the recording was just added to hype it up.

  2. As far as I have understood, it is not clear whether the recording was made using a cell phone. It may be so, or perhaps a different means of recording was used (e.g. some fancy spy keychain recording device, recording pen, or wearing a nice "fu2-Kelly" broche?) Who knows.

    1. It’s been reported in U.S media that the device used was a spy pen. These devices are used by more people than you may think.

  3. Definitely bigger implications here that go way beyond this situation. The funny thing is if this had of been a plot in "The Westwing" TV series people would have thought it would have been unlikely and yet here we are in real (scripted reality) life!

  4. The Situation room has been Faradin's EM caged since 1957(roughly). Even the light admitting glass is a four layer glass sandwich with three distinct seperations by vacuume, and the raw glass was seeded with thinmesh wire throughout to continue the EM cage. While hypothetically vulnerable if laser was tunable to micrometer sensitivities, would require 45-90 degree visual access to roof. Immediately sublayered is the oval office start of nuclear bunker built in '62, beneath that the dedicated elevator to private rail half a klick down that runs all the way to andrews at 90 Kilometers an hour that was installed by '68-71.

    SS has a standing SoP to only physical/EM frisk irregulars and unvetted, but to leave alone regulars or those with strict written approval from pres, vice pres, JCS. or SS signoff.

    Translation for the uninitiated to SIGINT: It was a device that recorded locally, stored locally on device. Student recorder, laptop, cell phone, tablet, you name it has a standalone record audio function.

    But to be in the room requires written approval of both person, AND device. Anyone violating protocols can be charged with a class three felony. Or as a capital offense if during a time of war.

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