Exclusive: The Super Secure Presidential Phone (That Trump May Not Be Using)

Matt Rourke/AP File Photo

A military program has created an Android-based super secure smartphone that goes with the office of the president. Is Trump using it?

Among the privileges and cool stuff that come with being the president of the United States is a highly modified Boeing Black smartphone, an encrypted device certified to handle top secret data. The Defense Information Services Agency, or DISA, developed the phone with help from Boeing and other partners, the phone “goes with the office” of the president.

But is Donald Trump using it—or his old and far less secure Android phone?

The DISA phone emerged from the agency’s Mobility Classified Capability program. A fact sheet says the program uses “commercial mobile devices (smart phones and hotspot devices) and commercial mobile architecture components” such as commercial virtual private networking. The sheet describes the phone as “NSA-approved,” and lists “top secret” communication capability as “coming soon.”

(The fact sheet does not mention the Boeing Black, but when Defense One asked DISA if the two were separate, an official replied, “no.”)

As of Nov. 1, DISA had handed out at least two of the phones, to Barack Obama and to U.S. Cyber Command leader Adm. Mike Rogers, according to DISA chief Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, who spoke at the Milcom conference in Baltimore. Lynn was initially coy when asked who helped DISA make the device: “I don’t want everyone to know who’s making good stuff for me because there’s a lot of partners. I don’t want to just highlight one. Although I’m sure the question might have come from that one.”

A moment later, he softened. “I’ll tell you who worked on the top secret one, Boeing did. Boeing Black is the device we’re working with.”

He added that DISA was “just now in the test phase of it.”

Since then, DISA has become a bit shy in discussing the device. When we asked whether Obama’s Boeing Black phone had been given to Trump, a DISA official, speaking on background, said only the phone “goes with the office of that position.”

Officials with White House Communications Agency, the DISA department that handles communications for the White House but is operationally independent, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

A bit about the phone: In 2014, Boeing filed required paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission, and received FCCID H8VBLK1. The filing details an Android-based, dual-sim-card phone that can switch between civilian and classified and civilian networks, including WCDMA, GSM and LTE networking at 3G.

The phone’s most important and famous feature: when you try to break it open, it self-destructs. According to the FCC filing: “Any attempt to break open the casing of the device would trigger functions that would delete the data and software contained within the device and make the device inoperable.”

Boeing would not discuss how the phone has changed since those 2014 filings. But Lynn talked a bit about the agency’s numerous modifications.

Almost no data resides on the phone itself, which he described as being “close to a VDI,” a virtual desktop infrastructure. That means the phone is little more than a window into another computer somewhere else. In addition, there is “a large amount of encryption tied into it.”

Is Trump using the phone DISA made for the president? Boeing referred inquiries to DISA, who referred us to the White House, who did not answer.

On Jan. 20, The Associated Press reported Trump had surrendered his unsecure Android-based Samsung Galaxy to security services. But on Thursday, The New York Times reported the president was still using an unsecured phone:

“Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, went back to New York on Sunday night with their 10-year-old son, Barron, and so Mr. Trump has the television—and his old, unsecured Android phone, to the protests of some of his aides—to keep him company.”

This worries at least some security experts.

“This is a consumer device, and it’s going to have security vulnerabilities,” Bruce Schneier writes. “He’s at risk from everybody, ranging from lone hackers to the better-funded intelligence agencies of the world. And while the risk of a forged email is real—it could easily move the stock market—the bigger risk is eavesdropping. That Android has a microphone, which means that it can be turned into a room bug without anyone’s knowledge. That’s my real fear.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.