According to government officials, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s personal cell phone was compromised, potentially allowing hackers and foreign governments to access its contents. The potential breach, which may have occurred as early as last December, was discovered after Kelly requested assistance from White House technical support, claiming the device hadn’t operated properly for months.
As reported by Politico, the discovery raises concerns that data on Kelly’s phone could have been accessed during his time as Secretary of Homeland Security as well as since he began serving in the White House.
Reports suggest that the breach may also have allowed outside parties to access the camera and microphone on the camera, though it has not been revealed if that actually occurred.
According to a report by MSNBC, that claims to have access to details contained in an internal Secret Service memo directed to White House staffers, the Secret Service has banned cell phones and other mobile devices from the West Wing of the White House as a result of the security breach involving Kelly’s phone.
The report states that, prior to entering the West Wing, White House personnel must turn off their personal devices, including smartphones, tablets, and even smartwatches, and place them into lockboxes.
Tech support staff identified the suspected breach after Kelly claimed his phone hadn’t worked properly for months. Reports claim that Kelly told technical support his personal cell phone, including failing to apply software updates correctly.
A spokesman for the White House stated that Kelly had not used his personal device extensively since joining the administration. The official also said that Kelly used a government-issued phone for official business communications, and not the personal device that is believed to be compromised.
Reports state that a one-page memo was prepared by White House aides that summarized the incident and that the document had been circulated throughout the administration.
A White House official confirmed that Kelly is no longer in possession of the potentially compromised personal device, though declined to provide details regarding the current location of that phone.
It has also not been revealed as to whether any data on Kelly’s phone was actually accessed by an outside party.