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The Real Risks of Obama's BlackBerry

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the for-certain-values-of-real dept.

Security 273

An anonymous reader writes "When the mainstream media first announced Barack Obama's 'victory' in keeping his BlackBerry, the focus was on the security of the device, and keeping the US president's e-mail communications private from spies and hackers. The news coverage and analysis by armchair security experts thus far has failed to focus on the real threat: attacks against President Obama's location privacy, and the potential physical security risks that come with someone knowing the president's real-time physical location. In this article, a CNET blogger digs into the real risks associated with the President carrying around a tracking device at all times."

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Cellphones? (4, Insightful)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833015)

The Prez doesn't have a cellphone?

Re:Cellphones? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833263)

No, but I'm sure one of his flunkies, er, staffers do, but I'm also sure it's on a cell phone net you've never heard of.

Re:Cellphones? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833345)

Linux just isn't ready for the desktop yet. It may be ready for the web servers that you nerds use to distribute your TRON fanzines and personal Dungeons and Dragons web-sights across the world wide web, but the average computer user isn't going to spend months learning how to use a CLI and then hours compiling packages so that they can get a workable graphic interface to check their mail with, especially not when they already have a Windows machine that does its job perfectly well and is backed by a major corporation, as opposed to Linux which is only supported by a few unemployed nerds living in their mother's basement somewhere. The last thing I want is a level 5 dwarf (haha) providing me my OS.

Re:Cellphones? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833911)

Unless it's using a cellphone technology that we've never heard of it's still radiating and sending and receiving data and acting like a huge red "come and get me" marker. A blackberry is much stealthier.

Re:Cellphones? (1)

xch13fx (1463819) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834097)

its still gonna be good enough for the guys at the tidal basin to target a window with.

Give me a break (5, Funny)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833561)

U.S. Presidents have had subcutaneous tracking implants for some time now.

Given a bit of technical savvy, those are no different when it comes to anyone being able to locate the Pres.

In addition, you could strip him of tech hardware completely and the plethora of social indicators easily associated with his daily routine would still light him up like a Shenzhen cathouse.

Re:Give me a break (4, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833839)

U.S. Presidents have had subcutaneous tracking implants for some time now.

Please explain this statement by using <sarcasm> or <tinfoil hat> tags so we can figure out if we should laugh or mock you ;)

Tag THIS, buddy. (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834001)

They're using Walmart's new Instore Cookie System [futurefeedforward.com] .

Re:Give me a break (2, Funny)

danwesnor (896499) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834569)

Please explain this statement by using <sarcasm> or <tinfoil hat> tags so we can figure out if we should laugh or mock you ;)

Are you talking to the guy with the implants or the original poster?

I could imagine... (5, Funny)

chipmeister (802507) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834269)

An antire group of people devoted to tracking and reporting on the whereabouts of the president. They could hire pundits to theorize on why he is there, film him getting in the car, getting out of the car. They could even predict where he's going to be, like "The president will be in Miami next Tuesday to talk to the guy in that place". Now that would be really freaky.

Re:Cellphones? (3, Insightful)

epiphani (254981) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833729)

Oddly enough, that pretty much covers it. This article has nothing specifically to do with blackberrys, its about any kind of cell phone using a public GSM or CDMA network.

turn it off? (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833051)

I mean, turn it off if you're trying to sneak around?

Re:turn it off? (5, Funny)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833117)

That may not be enough for most devices out there. You'll probably also have to take out the battery, and even then there could be an internal battery that keeps the tracking going. Your best bet, whenever you don't want people to track you through your cell phone, would be to smash it to bits, or coat it in honey and feed it to a bear.

Re:turn it off? (4, Insightful)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833225)

Or leave it at home?

Re:turn it off? (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833267)

The guy is a public figure with a public job. Give him a public cell phone.

Re:turn it off? (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833451)

He also has a private life, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with him having a private cell phone for that aspect of his life (as long as it stays confined to private use).

Re:turn it off? (4, Funny)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834163)

Or leave it at home?

But then the bad guys would be able to find the secret location of the White house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.

Re:turn it off? (1)

rjhubs (929158) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834279)

You have been reported to the NSA

Re:turn it off? (4, Funny)

genner (694963) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833375)

coat it in honey and feed it to a bear.

No good, the bear will follow you around looking for more handouts. In the meantime operatives are tracking the bear.

Re:turn it off? (4, Funny)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833471)

But then you have a bear to help you deal with the operatives

Re:turn it off? (0, Offtopic)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833871)

But then you have a bear to help you deal with the operatives

What if the operatives are from a country [wikipedia.org] that the bear likes more than us?

unless they have chinese needle snakes (5, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833877)

in which case, we need gorillas to take care of the snakes. and that's the beautiful part. when wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death

Re:turn it off? (3, Funny)

Hogwash McFly (678207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833515)

Well then feed it to a rat and get your ass to Mars.

Re:turn it off? (2, Funny)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833829)

so having dealt successfully with Ursa Minor.....here comes Ursa Major....and she's pissed!

Re:turn it off? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833761)

No good, the bear will follow you around looking for more handouts. In the meantime operatives are tracking the bear.

.m_m. .o o.
L>>
/ \\

Re:turn it off? (1)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834201)

coat it in honey and feed it to a bear.

No good, the bear will follow you around looking for more handouts. In the meantime operatives are tracking the bear.

All things considered, it isn't too hard to track a trail of empty picinic baskets.

Re:turn it off? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833427)

One cool scene of the 90s version of Vanishing Point, the driver simply turned on his cell phone and threw it in the luggage bin of a Greyhound bus. The cops were hundereds of miles off course by the time they found out.

Unrealistic because ... (4, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833961)

... the driver simply turned on his cell phone and threw it in the luggage bin of a Greyhound bus. The cops were hundereds of miles off course by the time they found out.

I think that may be unrealistic. Last time I looked (a LONG time ago) the luggage bin of a greyhound bus appeared to be a pretty good Faraday cage.

Basic concept is good though. (Yes they can and do hunt down federal fugitives, serial killers, and the like by tracking the cellphone location when it's just turned on.) Just don't turn it on and throw it in a sealed metal box: They'll zero in on where you turned it on and go from there.

The trick was also used in The Da Vinci Code, where the lead finds the tracking device and drops it onto a passing garbage truck. This is followed by a Keystone Cops / O. J. Simpson style car chase of the truck.

Re:turn it off? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26834463)

faraday cage motherfuckers!
It's not like it's hard to shield something small like a blackberry, you could even put it in your tinfoil hat.

I thought you people knew physics.

Re:turn it off? (3, Insightful)

legirons (809082) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833919)

I mean, turn it off if you're trying to sneak around?

The article mentioned one 'threat': that the SS driving around a limo pretending to contain the president while he arrives quietly in a different car, saying that the GSM chip would give away the 'right' car.

Except that the ruse would work even better by putting the real phone in the fake car and driving that around. Do we believe the SS didn't already think of this?

Femto-cells (5, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833073)

Seems like using a portable femtocell [wikipedia.org] and a private relay to some central government location would be enough to mitigate the problem. And besides, don't the secret service carry cell phones?/ If you can't track the prez, just track the people around him.

Re:Femto-cells (2, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833185)

It wouldn't cover the "man with an antenna" attack, the first one describe in the article. The femtocell location is also probably easy to determine.

Re:Femto-cells (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833437)

Back when I worked at Rockwell-Collins, I was developing software for a piece of SIGINT hardware. Every so often, a group of spooks from the client would come on over to play with the tools (I never learned which branch of the government they were from; management liked being vague). On one of these occasions they were scanning through the spectrum and tuning in to various signals that popped up with various demodulations. Then they encountered a signal they didn't recognize and couldn't understand, and got all excited like kids in a candy store. Someone suggested that it was probably something being worked on at Rockwell itself, and so they pulled out a directional antenna, left our office, and started running through the halls trying to track it down.

Re:Femto-cells (2, Interesting)

phorm (591458) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833847)

I wonder what it takes to get a job like that (government agent or "spook" as you called it). It sounds like in some cases it could be a rather interesting career.

Re:Femto-cells (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834285)

There are other fields to consider, especially military stuff. Try EWS, fun stuff there, though it takes a few years to get past merely reading the manuals and being able to understand what the heck is going on.

Then separate and go to work for one of the vendors. woot.

Re:Femto-cells (2, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834287)

It was kind of fun developing it. For example, to make sure that it worked, we made sure we could tune into cell phone calls with it, and there's only one way to figure that out... Cell phone signals are so freaking obvious on a scanner like that -- big, sharp blips, easy as heck to spot. We also used the device as a normal radio when 9/11 struck and everyone wanted to listen to news all day.

Oh, hey, to any "spooks" out there using "Bullfrog" (if it's still in use): on the frontend display (the one that doesn't keep a history, but has bouncing ball which shows you what frequency you're currently at and that has a little snapshot bar on the bottom that you can turn on and off): try turning that bar on and off precisely 42 times.

Have fun! ;)

Re:Femto-cells (1)

sukotto (122876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834239)

Admit it... you planted that signal to make them go away. :-D

Re:Femto-cells (1)

Orange Crush (934731) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834305)

Then they encountered a signal they didn't recognize and couldn't understand, and got all excited like kids in a candy store. Someone suggested that it was probably something being worked on at Rockwell itself, and so they pulled out a directional antenna, left our office, and started running through the halls trying to track it down.

Your story conjures a mental image for me of a group of very serious-looking MIB types huddled in front of an oscilliscope, suddenly grinning big and pulling out a gun-with-a-dish and running around the facility giggling.

Re:Femto-cells (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834457)

Hey, my interface was much nicer than an oscilliscope, you insensitive clod! ;)

Also, the antenna wasn't a dish. Or a horn. It looked more like some kind of old rooftop TV antenna. But yeah, they had a real kid-in-a-candy store look to them. It was neat listening to them trying to figure out what modulation just by listening to the sound of the signal on a different demodulation. It wasn't one we could tune into, but they were able to narrow it down just by sound. Pretty neat. ;)

Re:Femto-cells (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833741)

It wouldn't cover the "man with an antenna" attack, the first one describe in the article. The femtocell location is also probably easy to determine.

Keep the power on both low enough that the "man with an antenna" has to get real close or use a directional antenna, but if he has to use a directional antenna, he already knows where the prez is in order to point it at him.

Re:Femto-cells (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834383)

Not if you turn the building into a Faraday cage. The best way to secure things would be to do this and then the only wireless communication will be to stations also inside the building which you can control. That way nobody outside can detect anything....and if the bad guys are inside the building then you are already in a lot of trouble.

Decoys (1)

gilgongo (57446) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833089)

Don't worry - the feds will put out a nice cloud of decoy signals. Anyway, it's not as if you can't find out where the pres is generally going to be at any one time: the Whitehouse press office put out that info every day!

Re:Decoys (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833447)

Agreed. I seem to remember reading something about the Secret Service already doing something along these lines with the decoy signals and specialized phone routing through private phone networks owned by the federal government.

Anyway, if you want to know where POTUS is, turn on CNN. It's not hard.

Re:Decoys (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833891)

Anyway, it's not as if you can't find out where the pres is generally going to be at any one time: the Whitehouse press office put out that info every day!

They don't generally tell you which car in the motorcade he happens to be in though.....

Re:Decoys (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834119)

Or which motorcade. When he comes to NYC, at least, they have two motorcade routes with cars on each.

Obama's crackberry doesn't have a power button (0)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833105)

Which is why he can be tracked any time. Otherwise, he could just turn it off.

Re:Obama's crackberry doesn't have a power button (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833131)

eeeevery device has an "off" ;)

Re:Obama's crackberry doesn't have a power button (5, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833293)

Even if it happens to be in the form of a really big sledgehammer with the word "OFF" emblazoned on it?

Re:Obama's crackberry doesn't have a power button (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26834169)

Removing the battery usually works well enough and you don't have to buy as many phones that way. I'm pretty sure Blackberries have user-removable batteries.

If he's with his wife (-1, Flamebait)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833171)

Just look for the big butt. Otherwise there is more than enough electronic noise from the dozens of people around him using their phones and walkie talkies to track him.

Security through obscurity (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833183)

the authors are trying to promote security through obscurity. enough said

The Real Risks to Obama's Puckered Cherry (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833203)

As subject [goatse.fr]

The ever-appropriate captcha was "disaster".

PrezBO's security (5, Funny)

mrjimorg (557309) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833219)

I wouldn't worry too much about it. The #1 thing that is going to guarantee his security is this- if he dies, Biden becomes president. Just put a few adds on TV stating this and he'll be the safest man in the world.

Re:PrezBO's security (3, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833409)

The #1 thing that is going to guarantee his security is this- if he dies, Biden becomes president.

If that was his approach to security he would have asked Dick Cheney to be his running mate ;)

Re:PrezBO's security (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833863)

Well, it worked in my case. :-)
The thought of Cheney becoming POTUS kept me far from D.C. and rifles at the same time.

With all of the silly rumours flying around Oklahoma about Obama never making it in the door of the Whitehouse due to assassins, my only reply to any of that was:
Whatever, as long as they shoot Palin FIRST, I did not really care who was assassinating who, or why....just PLEASE shoot Palin first!!!

*note to NSA and FBI: I am uhmm, joking. Yeah, that's it...Joking!....see :-)*

Re:PrezBO's security (1)

DJGreg (28663) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833525)

Worked for W for eight years...

Heaven forbid! (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833223)

Heaven forbid he actually get any work done. You can't imagine the guy to actually use a cell phone, can you? Or computers, or email.

There are always security concerns. At what point does security invade your ability to complete your job tasks? Six Inches of Air?

Uh, I guess we are talking about wireless phones.

Risks of NOT using a BlackBerry (4, Insightful)

abroadst (541007) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833249)

Let's remember how important it is to have a president who is not overly insulated by yes-men. He needs direct communication with the outside world. Sure we could lock him in a lead box under the Pentagon if our top priority was keeping him "safe" but what good is that?

Re:Risks of NOT using a BlackBerry (1)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834263)

The prez being in-touch or out-of-touch with the outside world has precious little to do with whether or not he has his own cell phone.

You think they let POTUS chew gum and walk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833269)

He doesn't even brush his own teeth anymore, there's a special secret service dental agent who sits in his bathroom all day.

You really think they'd let him have any kind of obvious security risk like this, at all, ever? Watching too much West Wing.

Re:You think they let POTUS chew gum and walk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833963)

He doesn't even brush his own teeth anymore, there's a special secret service dental agent who sits in his bathroom all day.

He can't go to the bathroom by himself because there always seems to be some crazy loon in there who wants to scoop up his "sweet turds" straight from the bowl for consumption later... or so I've read.

The real risk is... (1)

basementman (1475159) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833277)

Critics saying he is racist for carrying a BlackBerry, but never a WhiteBerry. What? Too soon?

Re:The real risk is... (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833673)

Yeah, but he lives in the White House.

Ring ring ring (4, Funny)

paiute (550198) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833315)

POTUS: Hello?
Caller: Hi. Do you have...uh...like Prince Albert in a can?
POTUS: Excuse me?
Caller: Wait! I mean...is your refrigerator running? Could you like go and check it?
POTUS: How did you get this number? Who is this?
Caller: Uh...this is Haywood. Haywood Jablo-
Click.

Re:Ring ring ring (0)

Divide By Zero (70303) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833837)

And shortly after the click, Haywood is visited by the United States Secret Service and made to participate in a very uncomfortable conversation in which it is relayed to him the full meaning and import of what he has done and what fate might befall him if he were to engage in such behavior again.

When the NSA works for your boss, you can get tracking information PDQ.

Seriously? (5, Insightful)

i_am_socket (970911) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833347)

They don't think he's already got a tracking device on him at all times anyway? It's calls "several dozen Secret Service agents." Pretty hard to miss, honestly.

Who says IMEI has to be static? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833363)

Don't you think they would be smart enough to give him a special unit with a dynamic IMEI, or a generic one like 123456789? I believe many engineering prototype phones have generic IMEI codes in them anyway, enough of them are floating around there. Obama's Blackberry is "special" and I'm sure the folks at RIM have accommodated his special needs.

Exploding battery risks far higher (5, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833379)

Make sure one of the Secret Service guys always carries the BB.

Seriously, this is just another case of illogical fear of "new" technologies. It is already easy to track him: just look for the long motorcade.

Summarizing the summary: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833487)

BlackBerrys suck. IMHO, all cell phones suck (RTFA if you don't know why).

Argh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833489)

I'm so sick of hearing about the man's blackberries already.

Are Slashdot users concerned more with technological fallibility or racially-charged homo-eroticism? You be the judge!

the latter (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833801)

A couple weeks ago, while browsing around the library downtown, I had to take a piss. As I entered the john, Barack Obama -- the messiah himself -- came out of one of the booths. I stood at the urinal looking at him out of the corner of my eye as he washed his hands. He didn't once look at me. He was busy and in any case I was sure the secret service wouldn't even let me shake his hand.

As soon as he left I darted into the booth he'd vacated, hoping there might be a lingering smell of shit and even a seat still warm from his sturdy ass. I found not only the smell but the shit itself. He'd forgotten to flush. And what a treasure he had left behind. Three or four beautiful specimens floated in the bowl. It apparently had been a fairly dry, constipated shit, for all were fat, stiff, and ruggedly textured. The real prize was a great feast of turd -- a nine inch gastrointestinal triumph as thick as his cock -- or at least as I imagined it!

I knelt before the bowl, inhaling the rich brown fragrance and wondered if I should obey the impulse building up inside me. I'd always been a liberal democrat and had been on the Obama train since last year. Of course I'd had fantasies of meeting him, sucking his cock and balls, not to mention sucking his asshole clean, but I never imagined I would have the chance. Now, here I was, confronted with the most beautiful five-pound turd I'd ever feasted my eyes on, a sausage fit to star in any fantasy and one I knew to have been hatched from the asshole of Barack Obama, the chosen one.

Why not? I plucked it from the bowl, holding it with both hands to keep it from breaking. I lifted it to my nose. It smelled like rich, ripe limburger (horrid, but thrilling), yet had the consistency of cheddar. What is cheese anyway but milk turning to shit without the benefit of a digestive tract?

I gave it a lick and found that it tasted better then it smelled.

I hesitated no longer. I shoved the fucking thing as far into my mouth as I could get it and sucked on it like a big half nigger cock, beating my meat like a madman. I wanted to completely engulf it and bit off a large chunk, flooding my mouth with the intense, bittersweet flavor. To my delight I found that while the water in the bowl had chilled the outside of the turd, it was still warm inside. As I chewed I discovered that it was filled with hard little bits of something I soon identified as peanuts. He hadn't chewed them carefully and they'd passed through his body virtually unchanged. I ate it greedily, sending lump after peanutty lump sliding scratchily down my throat. My only regret was that Barack Obama wasn't there to see my loyalty and wash it down with his piss.

I soon reached a terrific climax. I caught my cum in the cupped palm of my hand and drank it down. Believe me, there is no more delightful combination of flavors than the hot sweetness of cum with the rich bitterness of shit. It's even better than listening to an Obama speech!

Afterwards I was sorry that I hadn't made it last longer. But then I realized that I still had a lot of fun in store for me. There was still a clutch of virile turds left in the bowl. I tenderly fished them out, rolled them into my handkerchief, and stashed them in my briefcase. In the week to come I found all kinds of ways to eat the shit without bolting it right down. Once eaten it's gone forever unless you want to filch it third hand out of your own asshole. Not an unreasonable recourse in moments of desperation or simple boredom.

I stored the turds in the refrigerator when I was not using them but within a week they were all gone. The last one I held in my mouth without chewing, letting it slowly dissolve. I had liquid shit trickling down my throat for nearly four hours. I must have had six orgasms in the process.

I often think of Barack Obama dropping solid gold out of his sweet, pink asshole every day, never knowing what joy it could, and at least once did, bring to a grateful democrat.

Wow, they know where the president is (4, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833491)

I don't think they ever could have sussed it out without the phone. It's not like the giant airplane, motorcades, helicopters, press pool, and army of Secret Service agents are a dead giveaway. The man can't even take a piss without a humorless man in black sunglasses whispering into his wrist.

If there are any vulnerabilities to be found here, no doubt there will be hackers looking into it and making it public knowledge for the notoriety, just like they do with Microsoft. The holes will be plugged, new research paid for, and I think we can all rest assured that wireless security will be all the more advanced from his eight years in office.

Re:Wow, they know where the president is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26834055)

The man can't even take a piss without a humorless man in black sunglasses whispering into his wrist.

It must suck trying to piss with someone whispering into your wrist!

Re:Wow, they know where the president is (2, Funny)

Choad Namath (907723) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834113)

It must suck trying to piss with someone whispering into your wrist!

I think it sucks more for the whisperer...

There are many ways around this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833495)

The government certainly has many more sophisticated options available.

For example, I would bet that the blackberry messages actually end up going to one location and their proprietary network will do the actual communication to his device.

With an infinite budget, they could also pay RIM to make a device that switches ID's regularly among a pool of thousands of ID's. Considering the infinite P.R. they have already gained from his preference of their product, I'm sure they would be willing to do whatever he wants for free.

Also, it is not the BlackBerry itself that is important, it is the ability for him to correspond with his friends; there is a large number of ways he could do this.

Knowing where the President is... (5, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833535)

... is much less important, from a personal security standpoint, than knowing where he's going to be.

Re:Knowing where the President is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26834069)

well, where he's going to be within 500m.

So what? (5, Insightful)

Shrike82 (1471633) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833539)

So let's imagine someone did actually manage to track the President using his Blackberry. Now that person could plan an assassination based on the Presiden't location? How is that more useful than knowing he'll be in location X at time Y based on a press release, or a public event?

The last link supposedly discusses the "risks" of a "trackable" President by supposing some would-be assassin could tell if the President was in the White House, or which car he was in out of several choices. Wouldn't this assassin be better off waiting for a public rally where the President's attendance, location (and probably the time of his attendance) are public knowledge?

This just strikes me as wild speculation with a healty dose of paranoia. Maybe I'm wrong, and I'm sure a hundred people will now cite many examples of how this could lead to "another JFK". Fire away people...

Re:So what? (1)

blueZ3 (744446) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833717)

It is easier to figure out that the President is in White House or at public rallies (or "town meetings") than which car he's in in the motorcade, but those stationary locations are also easier to secure. It's pretty hard to sneak a weapon into those places and an attack against them with anything less than an airliner isn't going to be terribly effective.

On the other hand, if you can hit him with an IED and a couple AT4s while he's in the Presidential Limo, you've got a better chance of actually doing him harm.

However, I agree that this is an unlikely scenario. Most presidential would-be assassins of recent years have been mentally unbalanced. It doesn't strike me as likely that Hinkley or Moore would have been smart enough to come up with or pull off a plan involving explosives.

i don't think obama has a blackberry (5, Informative)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833595)

i think he has a sectera edge [intomobile.com] , which is a sort of military grade blackberry. as such, you can bet he is immune from the kind of attack mentioned in the summary

slashdot noted this already [slashdot.org] , with the rumor that he has a blackberry and a sectera. this is absurd because:

1. the sectera has civilian and military network abilities, so it would be doubly redundant to have both a blackberry and sectera, since a sectera is pretty much already a blackberry+

2. since we are talking about top level extremely sensitive communications, rumors about the reality of his communication device is all any of us will hear about, as a rule. and probably with purposeful misdirection about what obama is actually using thrown in to boot: let the yokels believe what they want to believe about his communication device and the "stories" aka myths about him keeping his blackberry. uh huh. anyone, anywhere, writing about what obama is using is either guessing or lying. the more the certainty and conviction they have about what his communication device is, the sillier they are. the only people who know for sure what obama is communicating with on the go are probably a few tight-lipped spooks at the nsa. and if they talk, they are about to lose their job and are going to be heavily prosecuted about disclosing obviously extremely senstive national security details of obama's mobile communication situation. all obama cares about is the convenience of qwerty keyboard email on the go in a cellphone. switch a real blackberry with a sectera edge, he is happy. he's married to the convenience, not an actual brand of device

3. but i think most convincingly, when someone talks about obama keeping his "blackberry", i think they are using the word "blackberry" the way some people use "xerox": that is, like the word xerox has become a rough synonym for copying a piece of paper, i think blackberry is so ubiquitous now, any shiny brick with a full qwerty keyboard can be called a "blackberry" in common parlance, or soon will be. that's all the sectera edge is: a blackberry rip off with ultrahigh security. and that's most probably what obam is using

Re:i don't think obama has a blackberry (4, Informative)

epiphani (254981) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833855)

Wrong. [gizmodo.com]

He carries both. And he is carrying a "real" blackberry.

Re:i don't think obama has a blackberry (2, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833913)

1. the sectera has civilian and military network abilities, so it would be doubly redundant to have both a blackberry and sectera, since a sectera is pretty much already a blackberry+

There is nothing absurd at all about the notion that the President would have one device for official government business and another for personal use. In fact, that's the easiest method to comply with the relevant laws.

anyone, anywhere, writing about what obama is using is either guessing or lying.

Ah. Well, you could have just said that first and saved a lot of typing.

when you are president of the united states (2, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834241)

there is no such thing as personal use

what i mean by that is, any communication of yours meant to be private that can be intercepted and used against you is a national security concern. there is a reason his daughters have secret service agents: someone could hurt his children, or threaten to hurt them, and by extension, influence national policy. his communication with them by extension is vulnerable to interception, manipulation, etc. all sorts of fascinating psychological data about the president can be gleaned form his "private" communications on a common network, no matter how "secure". if he really is still using a well-known network for private vulnerable communications, you bet your ass foreign espionage services are stumbling over themselves getting their hands on those messages to mine for intelligence and psychological angles to work on the president

i would be incredibly surprised if obama was allowed to use any common carrier or protocol, even the relatively secure blackberry, the keys to which are owned by a canadian, ie, foreign, company. you really think they would let him do that? you really think obama himself isn't mindful of this threat?

no. i really would be hard pressed to believe obama is using a plain old blackberry. and if not a sectera, then a modded and retooled blackberry on a completely different network using a completely different protocol. doesn't have to be james bond Q type gadgetry, just something unique to the federal government and guarded by nsa spooks. because ALL of his communications, including his "private" ones, are that vital to national security

Re:i don't think obama has a blackberry (5, Informative)

GeekZilla (398185) | more than 5 years ago | (#26833965)

You are correct, it is a Sectera. I am a software engineer and am working on a web app for the dissemination of classified information on secure US networks. General Dynamics and the NSA worked together to create a mobile device that was both secure and rugged and it received final approval in late 2008. When that occurred, we began modifying our code to ensure it could run on the mobile device and even have one in the office for testing. After the election we learned that Obabma's "Blackberry" is really the GD Sectera or SME-PED. [gdc4s.com] . There was one article that actually got it right soon after the election and turns out a news.google.com search for SME-PED [google.com] reveals some good articles (I can't remember where I found the original article I referred to). From a Geek perspective, this is REALLY cool! Specs are freely available at the first link.

Re:i don't think obama has a blackberry (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834277)

The best part is how it runs Windows Mobile, which is almost totally unlike a Blackberry and is not terribly secure itself.

People seem to miss the fact that one does not simply swap a Windows Mobile device in place of a Blackberry and call it a day. It simply does not work like that.

I think the conclusion that he has both is probably quite likely.

Re:i don't think obama has a blackberry (1)

GeekZilla (398185) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834429)

I, also, was disheartened to learn that the Sectera was running Windows Mobile. Let's hope he keeps up with those software patches.

I agree. A couple of posts have pointed to a Gizmodo article that apparently states that he has both. Wouldn't be surprised.

Re:i don't think obama has a blackberry (1)

speed of lightx2 (1375759) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834313)

when someone talks about obama keeping his "blackberry", i think they are using the word "blackberry" the way some people use "xerox"

He most definitely uses a blackberry 8830 [engadget.com] . A sectera is not a blackberry, not in the usability sense. I wouldn't even want to see the operating system of that thing. That doesn't mean that the NSA didn't go through the internals and added some of their black magic

Good point.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833635)

Because its really hard to find a motorcade of black SUVs with a police escort.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26833947)

The secret service probably loves that tracking feature. Makes it so much easier to find the president when he wants to play Hide-n-seek...

Oh wait, that was our last president.

A pool of Blackberries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26834015)

Multiple Limos and multiple planes to diffuse the risk... why not multiple Blackberries? Strap a few to some stray dogs, and swap them out every now and then!

2 Blackberries are better than 1 (1)

mcfatboy93 (1363705) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834079)

First of all, if he is smart enough to get elected as Prez of US i think he is resposable to let any major goverment secrets out to his friends and family. (like that area 51 is where they keep aliens) Second YOU CAN TURN THE TRACKING JUNK OFF. i have a phone serviced by verizon (same guys make the blackberry) and i can make the GPS thing only accessable to the 911 ppls. Third if the goverment is going to give him a super cool tricked out PDA/phone/internet/... i am sure that 1. they can keep track of it 2. it will not have anything important. like o lets say that big red button for the nukes

Most devices that could home on a Blackberry ... (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834153)

... emit recognizable signals. You can bet that the Secret Service (or their friends at the FCC) have equipment in the President's vicinity listening for such signatures.

geek solutions (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834161)

What strikes me about the article is that it for the most part deals only with solutions that the average geek could implement. This is the office of the President of the United States, with the resources and leverage of the US Government at disposal to solve the problem. Talking about "green" solutions, or speculating on whether RIM would sue the US Government if Obama was using a hacked Blackberry is nonsense. I suspect the US Government could go to RIM and get whatever custom firmware they needed, or just roll their own with RIM's blessing. RIM is a Canadian company, but they have to do business here too.

With money literally no object, Obama's team could carry their own short-range portable cell tower, using completely different frequencies and protocols, which patches into the existing network in a secure way from a location distant from the President.

I personally think they'll use decoys, as with the presidential limo. And I strongly suspect that the information that passes between the President's device and the White House blackberry server will be strongly encrypted.

We'll probably never know the actual details. At first I was hoping someone would write a white paper after Obama leaves office, but I don't expect that to happen, as the solution, whatever it is, would have future uses.

The secret service is not stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26834217)

Do people really think the Secret Service is completely clueless? They deal with secure communications every day of their lives. They are familiar with these tools, they use them and they have access to the most advanced military hardware available. I'm sure there are any number of things they can do to eliminate these threats, they just didn't want to because it's one (or several) more things they need to worry about.

I'd be surprised if he isn't tracked already (1)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834371)

Given how ultra paranoid the Secret Service is, I'd be surprised if Obama hasn't been given a tracking device that he keeps on him. So the real question is whether the special Blackberry he's carrying is any more vulnerable than whatever tracking device he's using.

IMEI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26834491)

The article claims "they" could track him via a Triggerfish homing in on his IMEI. The question is, how would someone obtain his IMEI?

Really. (1)

danwesnor (896499) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834519)

The news coverage and analysis by armchair security experts thus far has failed to focus on the real threat: attacks against President Obama's location privacy, and the potential physical security risks that come with someone knowing the president's real-time physical location.

I hate to break it to you, but somebody knows where the president is at all times anyway. The big ass plane with the unique paint job, the helicopters with the presidential seal, the convoy of black Escalades, all those are kinda big giveaways. Also, his schedule is pretty much public.

A cellphone can't pinpoint you anyway, unless it has GPS and you're too dumb to figure out how to snip off the GPS antenna. And turning it off also solves the problem of being tracked. I'm sure the Secret Service knows how to make a cell phone switched off stop radiating.

And you can always do the old shell game - 100 phones linked to the same account and every day he gets handed one at random while the others are driven on alternate routes.

How is this new? (1)

nsayer (86181) | more than 5 years ago | (#26834535)

Hasn't every president for about a hundred years gone everywhere with a realtime tracking system [treasury.gov] ?

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