President Obama reveals he is not allowed to use Apple's iPhone due to security risks

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
President Barack Obama on Wednesday said the Secret Service does not allow him to use Apple's iPhone for security reasons, explaining why the leader of the free world still carries around a BlackBerry from 2007.

Obama
President Obama shown with an iPad 2 in 2011. Photo via The White House


The president's documented fondness of BlackBerry devices may be overdone, as he admitted to a group of White House visitors that the Canadian smartphone is the only device certified to be used in his post, reports AFP via Security Week.

"I'm not allowed for security reasons to have an iPhone," Obama said to at an event promoting his health care initiative. He added that his daughters, Sasha and Malia, are iPhone users who spend a lot of their time using their devices.

Before he assumed office in 2009, Obama was regarded as the most tech-savvy president in history. A large part of that description came from his adoption of mobile tech like the BlackBerry, which he fought to keep against the wishes of the Secret Service.

As highlighted in a Washington Post report from September, presidents quickly fall behind the times when it comes to the cutting-edge. With computer technology moving at a steady yet rapid pace, proven government security measures cannot be installed fast enough to allow for the same flexibility afforded the everyday consumer.

BlackBerry is known to have solid security and was the go-to device for the U.S. government before the rise of the iPhone, but with the proliferation of Apple's handset and those running Google's Android operating system, things have changed. Earlier this year, Apple's last-generation iOS 6 operating system was granted FIPS [Federal Information Processing Standard] 140-2 level 1 validation, allowing certain government agencies to adopt specialized devices running the software.

The low-level cryptographic certification gives Apple a foot in the door for government contracts, like Department of Defense employees, but still limits iPhone and iPad use to security clearance levels well below those assigned to the president.

While it is unlikely that President Obama will be able to use an iPhone during his remaining tenure, he has been seen carrying and using other Apple devices, including a third-generation iPad and a 15-inch MacBook Pro.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 93
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,835member
    Mods please stand by to remove extremely stupid political comments.

    Edit: On second thoughts don't limit that to extremely ...
  • Reply 2 of 93
    I am surprised that Apple doesn't have some cutting-edge R&D in place ready to work with and serve a US President's security needs. Especially given that we're six years into the product.
  • Reply 3 of 93
    chris_cachris_ca Posts: 2,543member
    [quote]The president's documented fondness of BlackBerry devices may be overdone, as he admitted to a group of White House visitors that the Canadian smartphone maker is the only brand certified for use, reports AFP via Security Week. [/quote]
    Only brand certified for use?
    What does this mean?
    Zillions of phones are certified for use.

    Maybe he's also the only one who can get carnivora?
  • Reply 4 of 93
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    BlackBerry is known to have solid security and was the go-to device for the U.S. government before the rise of the iPhone, but with the proliferation of Apple's handset and those running Google's Android operating system, things have changed. Earlier this year, Apple's last-generation iOS 6 operating system was granted FIPS [Federal Information Processing Standard] 140-2 validation, allowing certain government agencies to adopt specialized devices running the software.

     

    Does each version of iOS have to undergo its own FIPS 140-2 validation process? How long does the process take relative to the lifecycle of each iOS version? 

  • Reply 5 of 93
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,530member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post



    I am surprised that Apple doesn't have some cutting-edge R&D in place ready to work with and serve a US President's security needs. Especially given that we’re six years into the product.

     

    They probably do have such technology already. It’s the dinosaur known as the Federal Government that can’t adapt and progress as we have so plainly seen in recent weeks with their website prowess.

     

    It’s also possible that Apple’s technology is too good and doesn’t allow the NSA to do its thing. What? You don’t think the NSA taps the President’s phone? I’d take that bet any time.

  • Reply 6 of 93
    mac_dogmac_dog Posts: 625member

    he uses an android phone instead. 

  • Reply 7 of 93
    pazuzupazuzu Posts: 1,728member
    What does Putin use?
  • Reply 8 of 93
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by d4NjvRzf View Post

     

    Does each version of iOS have to undergo its own FIPS 140-2 validation process? How long does the process take relative to the lifecycle of each iOS version? 


     

    FIPS 140 refers to the certification of the cryptographic module. Basically the encryption functions operate correctly and feature a basic set of algorithms. The goal of the standard is to fight against the fake/poorly implemented encryption that was prevalent during the early days of commercial cryptography. A certified module means that when you ask it to encrypt something with AES 256, you have assurance that it really encrypted properly.

     

    It doesn't vouch for the security or design of the rest of the device or platform. For that, you have Common Criteria. As an example, the security disaster that was Windows XP had a FIPS 140 certification, as has OS X for a while. The key being that the BlackBerry system is Common Criteria EAL 4+.

     

    Usually there is little need to change the crypto library, CoreCrypto in Apple's case, so they are left unchanged for many versions to avoid the time and expense of recertification.

  • Reply 9 of 93
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    I am surprised that Apple doesn't have some cutting-edge R&D in place ready to work with and serve a US President's security needs. Especially given that we're six years into the product.

    I'm thinking the issue might be with how advanced iOS is compared to BB OS. It may not be possible to have the kind of security they want like redirecting to specific servers instead of what's built into the OS at a low level.

    I hope no one thinks he's rocking a modern version of BB OS
  • Reply 10 of 93
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,656member
    What an inflammatory piece of yellow journalism. Being able to pose with an iPhone does not make you tech savvy. Obama has demonstrated a remarkable ability to not grasp technology nor the business world.
  • Reply 11 of 93
    welshdogwelshdog Posts: 1,639member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pazuzu View Post



    What does Putin use?

    I think he uses the latest Voskoboynikov:

  • Reply 12 of 93
    tbelltbell Posts: 3,146member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    I'm thinking the issue might be with how advanced iOS is compared to BB OS. It may not be possible to have the kind of security they want like redirecting to specific servers instead of what's built into the OS at a low level.



    I hope no one thinks he's rocking a modern version of BB OS

     

     

    It is kind of like why Battlestar Galactica survived the Cylon attack. Low tech. The Cylons targeted advanced systems. 

  • Reply 13 of 93
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post



    What an inflammatory piece of yellow journalism. Being able to pose with an iPhone does not make you tech savvy. Obama has demonstrated a remarkable ability to not grasp technology nor the business world. The list of failure his administration has created is long but includes the like of A123, Soylandra and many others. In a nut shell he doesn't have a clue about technology.

     

    When your development team tells your project managers "we need three to six months to test this new website", and you find out the hard way on launch day that they only scheduled three weeks for testing, well, someone wasn't very tech savvy....

  • Reply 14 of 93
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by WelshDog View Post

     

    I think he uses the latest Voskoboynikov:


     

    I can assure you that Putin, former KGB head, has a very secure cellphone.

  • Reply 15 of 93
    pazuzu wrote: »
    What does Putin use?

    Putin uses the Soviet equivalent of a cell phone. That's why his car is spilling out that fine wire as he drives around Moscow.
  • Reply 16 of 93
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    His campaign certainly used a metric ton of iPhones! I volunteered, and although I was a grunt at the bottom end, many organizers above me had campaign-issued iPhones which were used for all kinds of things. It was a well-oiled machine that looked like chaos on the surface but was super-efficient and detail-focused in reality--and iPhones were a part of that. (As were banks of plain-old computers of course, which is where I came in.)

    I can definitely see why jumping on the latest new advances is NOT good for security though!
  • Reply 17 of 93
    Quote:


     "I'm not allowed for security reasons to have an iPhone,"


     

    Should read "Time Cook bricked my iPhone for my stupid comparison of the iPhone 5s launch and the ACA launch"  

  • Reply 18 of 93
    Quote:


    President Obama shown with an iPad 2 in 2011. Photo via The White House


     

    If only Apple still had iWeb ;) 

  • Reply 19 of 93
    The issue is not strictly the device, but the security of networks that the device utilizes. Early on, RIM developed it's back end servers to meet the security needs of service providers, corporations, and government agencies. RIM also has it's own Mobile Device Management (MDM) software and the services which encrypt all communications. Apple and Google rely on 3rd parties for many of these functions. iOS and Android can both be made 'secure' but not to the highest levels required by some areas of the government. Control of security on both the device and the back-end network is critical to providing the highest level of secure communications. I've argued, for years, that Apple needs to own more of it's own IP in this area, but as a company focused primarily on the needs of Consumers I doubt this will happen anytime soon. Some companies even disable the fingerprint sensor, on the iPhone 5S, because of the security risk...
  • Reply 20 of 93
    "Due to security reasons, we are no longer permitted to implement battleships. We will instead deploy this last-remaining awesome Viking ship. I am assured of its efficacy, despite there being only seven people on board, six of whom are dedicated to bailing water."
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