back to article NSA sez NO to prez: Spooks ban Obama from using iPhones

US President Barack Obama, a well-known BlackBerry fan, has said that he’s not allowed to have an iPhone for “security reasons”. In a speech at the White House promoting his healthcare changes to a youth audience, Obama said that he couldn’t use an iPhone, though he joked that his daughters seemed to spend a lot of time on …

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  1. Longrod_von_Hugendong
    Stop

    I think the more obvious answer is...

    the NSA can access blackberry so to keep an eye on the President, rather than Apple being insecure.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I think the more obvious answer is...

      Indeed, the NSA worked with BlackBerry to ensure the encryption has all the right backdoors in it.

      1. Shaha Alam

        Re: I think the more obvious answer is...

        if the backdoors exist for them, then the backdoors exist for everyone.

        all a matter of finding the right crypto key to fit the right crypto keyhole.

        granted, that might be an impossible task for those without the NSA's toolkit but chances are the key is W4shington1 anyway.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I think the more obvious answer is...

      That's actually correct - you will find that every government deployment of BBs has localised crypto keys, not the keys you and I are forced to accept.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I think the more obvious answer is...

        "not the keys you and I are forced to accept."

        Keys are generated by your BES server admin....

      2. Wzrd1

        Re: I think the more obvious answer is...

        "That's actually correct - you will find that every government deployment of BBs has localised crypto keys, not the keys you and I are forced to accept."

        Local is a relative term.

        In the case of the POTUS, his keys are generated by DISA. As are the NSA's keys.

        They're generated at an enterprise level.

        I knew people who got chopped off at the knees for using locally generated keys in the DoD, ending up replacing them with DISA issued keys.

        That said, the keys *are* recoverable from DISA, upon request of the commander who is responsible for the systems that the keys were issued to.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I think the more obvious answer is...

      Yep - as per Snowden, Windows Phone is the only device they havn't yet cracked, but i'm sure they are trying....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I think the more obvious answer is...

        "Windows Phone is the only device they havn't yet been bothered to crack,"

        TFTFY

        1. cambsukguy

          Re: I think the more obvious answer is...

          Well, will be the go to 'phone for terrorists and anarchists then; will keep an extra beady eye out for these off-the-grid types.

          Very clever disguise 'cause MS stuff is usually for ordinary, non-chavvy, conformist types.

    4. Don Jefe

      Re: I think the more obvious answer is...

      It was never a valid assumption that something from Canada would be immune to US government surveillance. The US and Canada are the two halves of the largest trade relationship on the planet. Both governments get what they ask for from the other and rarely is a request denied. Nothing is ever completely denied, certain things may be scaled back for political purposes, but they always meet in the middle.

      That being said the Canadians are significantly less likely to spy on everybody in hopes of catching a bad guy, they've got better risk management in Canada. Plus they don't go around pissing on everyone so there's less need for paranoia. But the Canadians always play ball with the US.

    5. Wzrd1

      Re: I think the more obvious answer is...

      Bleh. The NSA secured it, added some really good crypto as well.

      Can they read his traffic?

      Let's analyze the systems of authority.

      The NSA is part of the US DoD. DISA is part of the US DoD, they operate all information and communication systems and issue crypto keys.

      DISA is independent of the NSA.

      So, no. Not unless DISA plays ball with the NSA, out of general chumminess, as they do compete for federal funding. They have no parallel interests and endeavors.

      So, no. The NSA isn't able to listen into its Commander in Chief. Indeed, doing so would be bad, as his staff would eventually find an NSA report on his message traffic and really unpleasant things would happen to many, many careers.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remind me again...

    What encryption packages are on the iPhone that invalidate it's use by the Chief Executive? Oh right. AES-256.

    1. loneranger

      Re: Remind me again...

      That's funny, because the Wiki entry on it says, "AES is available in many different encryption packages, and is the first publicly accessible and open cipher approved by the National Security Agency (NSA) for top secret information when used in an NSA approved cryptographic module"

      Approved by the NSA!! hahaha No wonder

    2. Daniel B.
      Boffin

      Re: Remind me again...

      Any kid can whip up a program in 30 minutes to use AES-256. Hell, even set it up to use the Gauss Counter Field variant (I forget the name of that mode) that is supposedly more secure. But to really get a secure crypto implementation, you need to get the FISP 140-2 certs and a whole other stuff to test that your program isn't vulnerable to leaking keys or CSP out into the wild. BB got those certs, while the iPhone has barely made FIPS 140-2 …. on iOS 6.

  3. Adam Hartfield
    Pint

    (ignoring tech aspect)

    More than $100 a month for both cable and cell? Oh, he's funny! I'm single. I can't imagine what families pay.

    Middle-of-the-road Comcast cable television (1 HD DVR, no premium channels) and standard HSI = $160/mo

    2005-vintage AT&T paltry cell plan with grandfathered unlimited data from adding iPhone in 2009, minus a 19% discount thanks to working for a large multinational conglomerate = $68/mo

    And then there's the $80/mo I pay to Verizon for an honest-to-goodness land line.

    Beer because I need one!

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Europe is slightly better

      20Mb ADSL line ( Orange or SFR France) ( Land line is include din ofer with free calls to most of the world.

      = 32 Euros per month.

      Mobile telephone ( I make very few calls -- 20 Euros per month).

      I don't have a television ( everything worthwhile is available on the web - as far as I am concerned)

      Total = 52 Euros for internet, Landline + Mobile.

      Which is slightly better than 408$ .......

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Europe is slightly better

        Inexplicable truth, competition seems to be working in Europe to keep prices relatively low.

        Unless I'm missing something (which is likely). Are communications subsidised in Europe?

        1. Khaptain Silver badge

          Re: Europe is slightly better

          I do not think that the comms are subsidised, what is definately true though is that competition between the operators is very dynamic and it has been for several years. The service, speed, equipment is pretty much the same for all operators, so the only difference that gives them any advantage is low prices.

          The watchdog has also ensured that it is very easy to change providers and this has proved also to be an excellent opportunity for the end-customer.

          Anyone in France with a television must pay a TV licence of 131 Euros per year, I dont have a TV so I do not pay it, but they are now thinking about making anyone with a computer/connection pay this licence.

    2. Bill Gould

      $85 CDN for my internet connection, 65$ CDN for my cell phone plan (which I can expense through work thanks to BYOD). No TV Cable or bundle of anything, that's what the internet is for (Netflix, &c).

      He might have meant $100 USD per person.

    3. phil dude
      Pint

      ouch!

      genuine question, do you need a landline?

      I do as I have DSL (and ATT wires :-( ) , but since you have cable IP, would Vonage or someother VOIP provider help....

      P.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        genuine question, do you need a landline?

        Until the cable company offers to fully subsidise the brand new burglar alarm system I would need to enjoy the same level of response to a triggered alarm, yes.

        They would also have to agree that they do NOT in fact need to drill yet another hole in my house walls as all the connections they need exist inside the basement.

        Both of these have been showstoppers on the last three visits I've had from "installation technicians" who would like to "save me money".

        Also - old-school phone usually works during a power cut, voip dead as a coffin nail until I power up Mr Generator and run some extension cords.

        Additional: old school phone voice quality is acceptable. Digital cell phone voice capability is beyond execrable.

        1. Khaptain Silver badge

          Re: genuine question, do you need a landline?

          @Stevie

          Why don't buy yourself a small 30 minute UPS ? ( Unless of course you have long power cuts)....

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: Why don't buy yourself a small 30 minute UPS ?

            You answered that in your own post. 8o)

            Power cuts are different from "outages". Anything under 1/2 an hour is an inconvenience and I can do without mains electricity for that length of time for gosh sakes.

            But if the pole pig breaker trips it could be several hours before LIPA arrive in theater to unlock the padlock and flip the switch. And last year there was Sandy...

            1. Khaptain Silver badge

              Re: Why don't buy yourself a small 30 minute UPS ?

              @Stevie

              That's a long time to wait for the power company to react, where do you live , Alaska or the Hebrides ?

              1. Stevie Silver badge

                Re: Why don't buy yourself a small 30 minute UPS ?

                That's a long time to wait for the power company to react, where do you live , Alaska or the Hebrides ?

                Worse. Long Island.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ouch!

        "genuine question, do you need a landline?

        I do as I have DSL (and ATT wires :-( ) , but since you have cable IP, would Vonage or someother VOIP provider help....

        P."

        YES is the simple answer. If only because giving an IP/cell number makes you look untrustworthy.

        "What you can't afford a phone?"

        1. Soruk

          Re: ouch!

          > YES is the simple answer. If only because giving an IP/cell number makes you look untrustworthy.

          Where you are, do VoIP numbers look different to landline numbers? In the UK, most VoIP numbers are allocated in the landline number range. Of course it'll look odd if you live in London and present an Aberdeen number (or vice versa), but if your VoIP number is in your local area, then only the anally curious (or typical El Reg reader) will look up the phone company that allocated the number.

          And, conversely, Stateside, mobile numbers are allocated from the area code blocks, so again, if your number has the right area code, it shouldn't look untoward.

          > "What you can't afford a phone?"

          Sure I can, but I *choose* not to be ripped off by the likes of BT.

    4. Station Grey

      Wow, you're either very bad at this or your country is. Freeview HD TV, free, decent iPhone PAYG SIM from Giffgaff, £10 a month and maybe 25 quid for line rental and a reasonably fast 30Mb connection.

      And landline? What's that for?

      Total, a £35 a month.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Stop

        TV Licence is £12.12 a month.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "TV Licence is £12.12 a month."

          Thanks for pointing out stations ill-considered opinion.

          Tho to be fair either mum or their partner pays the bills.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "

        Wow, you're either very bad at this or your country is. Freeview HD TV, free, decent iPhone PAYG SIM from Giffgaff, £10 a month and maybe 25 quid for line rental and a reasonably fast 30Mb connection.

        And landline? What's that for?

        Total, a £35 a month.

        "

        Mobile broadband unlimted packages are never unlimited, so yes, phone line please!

    5. cambsukguy

      The $80/m is where you are going wrong then.

      I called Virgin, my ISP, to drop my speed from 60mbs to 30mbs because it was £5/m cheaper. I also told them to drop my landline and cable box for another £5/m reduction; a total reduction from £37 to £27 per month. £27 is about $44 today - for internet, phone and basic cable.

      As it happens, their retention team offered to let me keep the phone and TV for £1/m for 18 months so I got to keep the alternative TV (we have a free TV service in the UK called freeview so cable boxes are only really required for premium services).

      My SIM-only contract with EE is £8/m ($13) for 600MB data, 500 minutes of calls and a-hell-of-a-lot of texts (also because a retention team offered me 500MB extra free to not switch to another operator) - seems a lot less than it would be in the US.

      I did read recently about the US paying through the nose for internet access; it would seem to be true. Since they also pay extortionate amounts for cellphone contracts, it is lucky everything else is cheaper, especially fuel.

      1. Irony Deficient

        Stateside nasal payment plans

        cambsukguy, the prices here depend upon where one is in the States. Most of the US has a lower population density than most of western Europe; in my case, my county’s population density is akin to that of Shetland. My monthly cost for two landlines, 3½ Mb/s downstream DSL on one of those landlines, no mobile phones, and no cable TV is roughly four times what you pay for your service, so I suppose that I’m on a dual-nostril plan.

  4. James 51 Silver badge

    Yea, but the telco situation in the US is just bonkers.

  5. sisk Silver badge

    Fox style headline:

    President Obama Has No Idea How Much A Phone Bill Costs You

    The article would contain a scathing criticism of how Obama is out of touch with the average American.

    NBC style headline:

    President Obama's Phone Most Secure In The World

    The article would contain praise for how Obama persevered against a corrupt NSA that would deny a black President the right to use a smart phone.

    NPR Style headline:

    President Obama Continues To Promote ACA

    The article wouldn't mention phones.

  6. David Nash Silver badge

    Re: And landline? What's that for?

    @Station Grey, That's for when the mobile signal is unreliable due to the building structure, or the cell is saturated, or just plain poor quality, and to have a guaranteed way of making an emergency call.

    Anyway didn't you include that in what you called "Line Rental"?

  7. Daniel B.
    Holmes

    Is this really news?

    Anyone even slightly concerned about security knows that the BlackBerry is still the only one with the certs and the security for serious stuff. Not really surprised that Obama has to keep his BlackBerry "Special Edition". If anything, the NSA would have him migrate to a Sectera Edge...

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