President Trump's chief of staff John Kelly's personal cellphone may have been breached for months, according to a report published Thursday by Politico.
A security expert also explained to Politico that the worst-case scenario involving Kelly's phone could be a hacker or other cyber attacker gaining "full access" to the phone, essentially having the ability to switch on the phone's microphone or camera and listen in or watch Kelly's interactions while running the White House and serving as Trump's gatekeeper. Kelly, now President Trump's chief of staff, turned his phone over to White House tech support staff during the summer because it wasn't working correctly.
"Kelly's personal phone stopped working, and he discontinued its use", White House spokesman Raj Shah told Politico. It's unclear at this time what entity breached the former Marine general's handset, but it's not hard to guess who would be interested in gaining access to the device that handles personal communications for a top USA official.
The official, "who did not dispute any of Politico's reporting" on the matter, said Kelly did not have the phone anymore - but would not say where it was now.
The apparent hack of the device, which was first identified by White House tech support, could have occurred as early as December 2016.
Mr Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, joined the Trump administration in January as Secretary of Homeland Security.
Though technicians are still unsure when Kelly's phone was initially infected, a September White House memo on the hack confirmed that the former military official had since replaced his personal phone.
"I get the thing, and they're all like, 'Well, Mr. President, for security reasons.it doesn't take pictures, you can't text, the phone doesn't work. you can't play your music on it, '" Obama told "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon a year ago when he was allowed to upgrade his then-old BlackBerry.
"The [attackers] I would be most anxious about are nation-states or other actors who may have access to resale of commercial spyware sold to nation-states", he said. "Really the only way to pick up on that is to do forensics on the phone".
"The IT department concluded the phone had been compromised and should not be used further", Politico reported.