"I have the best Wi-Fi security"
Donald Trump’s "retreats" like Mar-A-Lago are more than just costly to taxpayers—they’re also extremely vulnerable to getting hacked.
In a story published jointly by Gizmodo and Pro Publica, the reporters detail how they visited several Trump retreats, including Mar-A-Lago in Florida, and found digital security extremely wanting, especially for places that the president frequents.
While the president certainly travels with special equipment that would allow him to transmit communications securely, this White House has already proven that it’s not exactly on top of its game when it comes to this sort of thing.
In February, when Trump was hosting Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, news of a missile launch by North Korea hit during dinner. Trump and staff began to handle the situation right there, in the middle of a crowded dining room with other club members looking on.
And aides used the lights from their smartphones to illuminate documents, oblivious to the fact that smartphone cameras can be hacked and used for spying. (You can even access how-to videos on YouTube.)
The Gizmodo/Pro Publica report found plenty of poorly protected vulnerabilities, like an accessible printer at Mar-A-Lago which could allow a hacker to access documents printed out on that device or even dig deeper into the network.
Other exploits were found at Mar-A-Lago — Wi-Fi signals strong enough to be picked up from a boat 800 feet away, Wi-Fi signals either using outdated encryption methods or wide open for anyone to access — that were repeated at other locations like the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
At the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., the group was able to access the hotel’s Wi-Fi network from a Starbucks in the basement only using a fake room number. Lord knows what some prime hackers would do.
In fact, one expert told the reporters that based on what they told him of the digital security (or lack thereof) at Mar-A-Lago, “I’d assume the data is already stolen and systems compromised.”
The report follows up on another Gizmodo story in which a team of reporters managed to "test" certain Trump associates to see how easily it would be to phish them. Those results weren’t great either (though the story also stirred up controversy about Gizmodo’s actions).
It’s especially trouble given that the globe is still reeling from the largest ransomware attack we’ve seen yet and hackers have been able to access far more secure networks in the U.S. After all, we’ve got a president who doesn’t really know how hacking works anyway.
So it’s only a matter of time. That is, if it hasn’t happened already.