President Obama: Can't iPhone, won't iPhone

President Obama: Can't iPhone, won't iPhone

Summary: President Obama may be the most powerful man in the world (say some) but he's still not allowed an iPhone, due to Secret Service restrictions.

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TOPICS: Security, Apple, iPhone
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(Image: White House/Flickr)

U.S. President Barack Obama may be the most famous person on the planet to use a BlackBerry. Despite the fall in the device's popularity, he's almost certainly stuck with it for the next three years.

According to an AFP story (via SecurityWeek), speaking to a group at the White House on Wednesday, the President admitted he is "not allowed" an iPhone "for security reasons."

This is in spite of the fact that his daughters Sasha and Malia spend a lot of time on their iPhones, he said.

Days after Obama was inaugurated in 2009, he reportedly battled with Secret Service to keep his BlackBerry — a fight he eventually won. There were concerns that foreign spies would be able to eavesdrop on his phone, in a way not too dissimilar to claims published earlier this year that the U.S. government spied on German chancellor Angela Merkel's BlackBerry device.

But even if he wanted an iPhone, according to earlier reports he wasn't able to use the smartphone when he was on the campaign trail for his second term in 2012. Even as an avid iPad user, he was befuddled by the dialing pad on the iPhone, which he was eventually able to navigate.

While iPhones have become increasingly popular and bolstered in security, they have still yet to convince the various U.S. government departments that they are fit for official business.

While BlackBerrys are known for their military-grade encryption, used by dozens of governments and major private companies around the world, the devices are losing luster among many consumers. The Ontario, Canada-based company recently announced its reaffirmation to the enterprise customer after taking a significant tumble in market share rankings.

iPhones, however, have yet to be classified as secure enough for government and military use for the level of security required by White House staff.

In May, older Apple mobile operating system iOS 6 was granted FIPS 140-2 certification, allowing low-level classified documents to be shared and access on iPhones and iPads. Not long after, iPhones and iPads were cleared by the U.S. Defense Dept. for U.S. military use.

But the devices alone aren't enough for the whole package.

Alas, while BlackBerry remains in a stagnant state with the hope it can turnaround in the coming fiscal quarters, the company remains the only smartphone and service provider to be given "authority to operate" on U.S. Defense Dept. networks.

Topics: Security, Apple, iPhone

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28 comments
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  • How Secure Is Anything?

    If we were able to spy on Angela Merkel's Blackberry, doesn't that call into question whether Blackberry is really appreciably more secure than enterprise solutions for iOS or Android?
    KPOM1
    • BB10

      I read many times that it was only when Merkel switched to the BlackBerry Z10 she was safe from threat. I think you have that completely wrong.
      xBURK
      • Really??

        Any of the modern mdm tools will allow encryption all the way back to where ever the Secret service wants for any of the "Data". Heck even Blackberry has been hacked publicly(and privately by britain and the NSA). It's time to get over it, the only thing secure is a device that's unplugged.
        Johnpford
        • You hit the nail on the head!

          Obama is the first president to have a cell phone. He should be the last. There is literally no reason for him to have a cell phone given the risk and availability of communication options at the President's disposal.
          114SWH
      • Is Blackberry more secure?

        The reason that blackberry is less hacked is that it is less popular and less targeted
        SmilingGuy
        • That is determened by DOD

          It is more secure. The less popular argument is worthless. There are systems that have better security than others.
          Altotus
    • Merkel's Nokia, not BlackBerry, was hacked

      Merkel's BlackBerry was never hacked. The Snowden documents refer to Merkel's Nokia handset.

      There is no mention anywhere in any of the Snowden documents that mention or reference Merkel's Secusite Encrypted BlackBerry Z10.

      The German government was worried about handset security prior to the Snowden leaks. This is why the procured a BlackBerry for her in the first place.
      dmx_dawg@...
      • Blackberry does not need to be "hacked"; it works through Canadian servers,

        ... which are fully spied on by NSA>
        DDERSSS
        • GovReply b

          There is no NSA!
          NSAagent666
    • you americans can crack crackberry

      it cant be cracked by non americans
      Tuxwarrior
  • Secret Service...

    LOL! Sorry, I couldn't resist.
    Grayson Peddie
    • GovReply

      Don't make me put you on execReview-5!
      NSAagent666
  • Blackberry's Time is Now.

    I could not think of a better time for Mr. Chen (new BB CEO) to pull the trigger on the advertising. It's all over the news that BlackBerry is the only device fit for top security around the world. If there is any hope to show how great the new BB10 is, NOW IS THE TIME!
    xBURK
    • Black berry old but still damn good

      I dont know what kind of Blackberry mr Merkel had but Blackberrys never been hacked even Putin and the chinese leadership use them as does North Korea amongst their eleite, old blackberry may not be as fast and fancy as Iphones etc but it has that security thing every major leader in world uses black berry for business maybe something else for personal or family but Blackberry for offical business.
      badassblair22@...
      • It Doesn't Matter Hos Good BB May Be

        Just associating a product with Obama will be the final nail in RIM's coffin . . .
        Gr8Music
  • Doesn't he determine the rules?

    "According to an AFP story (via SecurityWeek), speaking to a group at the White House on Wednesday, the President admitted he is 'not allowed' an iPhone 'for security reasons.'"

    When it comes to running his branch of gov't - isn't he the boss? Doesn't he get to determine the rules and policies of his administration?

    If I were him - I'd tell the Secret Service to take a hike off a cliff.
    CobraA1
    • Draft an Executive Order

      declaring that the President of the U.S. can use a bright cherry red iPhone 5C for official duties. I believe that BES can handle the iPhone now.

      Why not the iPhone 5S? Saving U.S. taxpayers money, of course. Why bright cherry red? To reflect the U.S. national debt of approx. $17 trillion U.S. :)
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Ironic, isn't it? The fact is that there are considerations of ...

      ... national security which supersede the authority of the President of the United States.

      Further, if the President is in any way compromised in the performance of his duties, the Vice President (with the consent of the Cabinet) may invoke the 25th Amendment and relieve the President of his duties. Similarly, the Congress may remove the President from Office through impeachment and trial.

      Only two Presidents have ever been Impeached: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. NEITHER were convicted and subsequently removed from office.
      M Wagner
      • Legally and Constitutionally, the President COULD overrule the rules,

        but it would be political suicide if there was ONE instance, even a trivial one, of a publicly revealed leak due to hacking of a non-approved device. One of the scenarios described above would surely come to pass if he ignored expert advice and exposed our classified secrets to hackers and/or terrorists.

        After all, there are some nut cases in Congress who already want to impeach him because, in their fantasy world, he "isn't American" or is "a Muslim" or "a socialist" or whatever they make up next week (translation: he's not 100 percent white).
        jallan32
    • Security first

      There's a damn good reason those restrictions exist in the first place. He did fight to keep his BlackBerry (otherwise he'd be using a Sectera Edge, the official NSA-mandated secure smartphone) but the BB already had the security clearance. Many of the things needed to get the "authority to operate" like FIPS 140-2 take years to get, and those involve tests to see if the devices or the OS isn't leaking data. You wouldn't want the President's communications to be easily tapped, would you?
      danixdefcon5