Is China listening when Apple’s Cook talks to Trump?

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when tariffs get discussed.

From When Trump Phones Friends, the Chinese and the Russians Listen and Learn in Thursday’s New York Times:

Mr. Trump’s use of his iPhones was detailed by several current and former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so they could discuss classified intelligence and sensitive security arrangements. The officials said they were doing so not to undermine Mr. Trump, but out of frustration with what they considered the president’s casual approach to electronic security.

American spy agencies, the officials said, had learned that China and Russia were eavesdropping on the president’s cellphone calls from human sources inside foreign governments and intercepting communications between foreign officials.

The officials said they have also determined that China is seeking to use what it is learning from the calls — how Mr. Trump thinks, what arguments tend to sway him and to whom he is inclined to listen — to keep a trade war with the United States from escalating further. In what amounts to a marriage of lobbying and espionage, the Chinese have pieced together a list of the people with whom Mr. Trump regularly speaks in hopes of using them to influence the president, the officials said…

Calls made from the phones are intercepted as they travel through the cell towers, cables and switches that make up national and international cellphone networks. Calls made from any cellphone — iPhone, Android, an old-school Samsung flip phone — are vulnerable.

My take: Intriguing story. Tim Cook is not one of Donald Trump’s close friends but they do talk. In this case, the interests of Beijing and Cupertino are in alignment. Neither wants the trade war to get out of hand.

WARNING: Partisan and ad hominem comments will be removed.


  1. Gregg Thurman said:
    I’m trying to imagine the physical technology required to isolate a particular device’s digital signal from among thousands and am having a hard time doing so

    I’m not saying it can’t be done but the equipment required would not be small, not small enough anyway to be discrete, and wouldn’t that result in a reaction from our security services?

    This sounds suspiciously like the SuperMicro spy chip story.

    October 25, 2018
    • John Kirk said:
      I’m not very tech savvy, but as a recovering attorney, I know that police departments have, for decades, been honing in on the individual signals of the mobile phones of drug dealers (and others). I doubt it’s hard to do.

      October 25, 2018
  2. Ken Cheng said:
    Where’s the Jordan Richardson Bloomberg story that a small chip has been implanted on Trump’s iPhone, and the giveaway is the metal enclosure on the Ethernet port!!!

    October 25, 2018
    • David Drinkwater said:
      I wish they’d put a chip inside Trump’s brain. IIRC it’s called a CPU ….

      October 26, 2018
  3. John Butt said:
    Legal intercept, LI, is a thing in every country. All telecom equipment manufacturers must provide it to prescribed levels of govt agencies, both police and the spy agencies. It fundamentally gives them the ability to listen to any conversation on the telephone network, so the equipment is already in the exchanges. The question is who gets to listen and how can it be misused, the answer is obvious, since almost anything is now hackable.

    Welcome to the industry I just left.

    October 26, 2018
    • Gianfranco Pedron said:
      Thanks, John.

      Just added that to my list of:

      “Things I always suspected which would likely have impacted my ability to sleep peacefully had they been confirmed … (or maybe helped me sleep easier.)”

      Sleep is good. Ignorance is bad. Choices … choices.

      October 26, 2018

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