Senior White House officials were advised in classified briefings by the National Security Agency about the improper usage of personal cellphones and email that could make them susceptible to espionage from Russia, China, and Iran, among other nations, according to a report Friday.
The briefings occurred shortly after the inauguration on Jan. 20 and before White House officials, including President Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, started using personal email and phones to manage official business, Politico reported.
The NSA told administration officials that cyberspies might be using advanced malware to transform personal cellphones into covert listening devices, to take photos and video unbeknownst to the owner, and to transfer data from Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth.
As a result, officials were informed that they should expect that foreign cyberspies had already entered their personal email systems to a certain extent and used that access to absorb everything from their computers, phones and those of their contacts. Additionally, they were told that use of personal devices for work, including sending files and emails from one system to another, could allow cyberspies access to their work computers and emails as well.
Although officials are supposed to use government email addresses to conduct business, it is not illegal for White House officials to use private accounts, provided they forward work-related messages to their work accounts.
With Kushner being so close to the president and involved in so many projects, he may have left himself wide open to a major security breach if he did ignore security precautions.
"Jared is probably one of the top five or 10 targets in the U.S. government because of his access to the president and because of the portfolios he's been given," said Richard Clarke, a former top cybersecurity advisor to three presidents told Politico. "It's a pretty safe bet that his personal devices have been compromised by foreign intelligence services. And therefore there is some risk that meetings he attends are compromised too."
Every incoming administration has been given these briefings from the NSA.
The White House launched an internal investigation of private email use after news broke that members of President Trump's family, who also work for his administration, had been using private email accounts.
Former White House officials were also found to have used private accounts, including former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon and former chief of staff Reince Priebus.