Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is demanding that national security leaders adopt a plan to protect the personal devices and internet accounts of top Trump administration officials.
Mr. Wyden of Oregon wrote the acting director of the Department of Homeland Security and the head of the National Security Agency on Friday urging them to work together to ensure senior White House officials are safeguarded from cyberattacks after malware was reportedly found recently on Chief of Staff John F. Kelly’s personal cell phone.
“In light of this serious cyber threat to U.S. national security, I urge you to immediately direct your respective agencies to collaborate on a comprehensive effort to secure the personal devices and accounts of senior government officials,” wrote Mr. Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee and a member of the intel panel since 2001.
Politico reported earlier this month that White House technical experts found malware on Mr. Kelly’s personal phone and concluded that the device had been compromised, albeit months after the device allegedly first began malfunctioning.
“This raises deeply troubling questions about whether the White House regularly screens personal devices for foreign malware and how long the malware might have remained on General Kelly’s phone undetected had the device not obviously malfunctioned,” Mr. Wyden wrote, referring to Mr. Kelly, who is a retired Marine Corps general.
“Foreign governments could target government officials’ personal devices and accounts because they have significant intelligence value and are often poorly secured,” Mr. Wyden added. “For example, hackers can easily co-opt personal smartphones, turning the phone’s microphone into a listening device that can record nearby conversations even when the phone isn’t being used. Likewise, if hackers gain access to an official’s personal email account, they will gain access to contact lists and other personal information that enables them to launch even more effective spear-phishing attacks.”
The DHS and NSA should collaborate together on developing a comprehensive plan to secure the personal devices and online accounts of senior officials, Mr. Wyden wrote.
The plan could include but not be limited to regularly screening their devices for malware, conducting routine cybersecurity check-ups and collaborating with major phone and internet companies to identify and thwart potential attacks, he said in the letter.
The senator’s letter was addressed to Acting DHS Director Elaine Duke and NSA Director Mike Rogers and forwarded to Rob Joyce, the Trump administration’s cyber czar, according to a copy released by Mr Wyden’s office Friday.
None of the intended recipients immediately commented publicly on Mr. Wyden’s request.
President Trump’s chief of staff is among a handful of high-profile targeted hacked in recent memory, the senator noted, adding him to a list already containing the likes of former CIA Director John Brennan and Democratic operative John Podesta, among others.
Hackers accessed Mr. Brennan’s financial records while he helmed the CIA and released them in 2013, and two years later his personal emails was obtained and leaked in a related incident. Mr. Podesta, meanwhile, was the target of a Russian government-sponsored hacking campaign that targeted the 2016 U.S. presidential race and particularly the election’s Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
He was the chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.