Randy January 23, 2009 2:32 PM

The real advice is: “Don’t answer strangers who talk to you first.”

I 100% agree. That’s exactly what I’ve told my children.

I can’t believe that I had the same thought as Bruce! 🙂


Klug January 23, 2009 3:03 PM

Bruce, what do you think of the decision to let Obama have a ‘highly secured’ Blackberry? While I agree with the general intention (it’s better to have a connected president than an isolated one), I’m skeptical that NSA/WHCA will be able to keep that particular device secure.

HJohn January 23, 2009 3:15 PM

@Klug: “Bruce, what do you think of the decision to let Obama have a ‘highly secured’ Blackberry? While I agree with the general intention (it’s better to have a connected president than an isolated one), I’m skeptical that NSA/WHCA will be able to keep that particular device secure.”

I think it will be interesting. Like all users, the president will have to be careful with what he does on it, since data is a byproduct of any telecommunications technology.

I’m not as skeptical that the NSA/WHCA can keep the president’s blackberry secure. I would be skeptical of their (and alot of entities’) ability to keep dozens of them security agency wide, but not one specific to the president. You will literally have dozens of people staying on top of it. If there is any such device they will be determined to protect, it will be this one.

A good couple of analogies are the president’s physical protection and his private information. It is very difficult to get to a president to harm him because everyone in his proximity is protecting him–I think the same rule will apply to his blackberry. And, in the information realm, there will be numerous people looking out for his privacy–right here in Illinois, some Secretary of State employees were suspended for looking up his data, since reviewers knew that it was unlikely he walked into the office.

We also see what happened when someone tried to hack into Sarah Palin’s email. They were caught pretty quickly. And not because she had better technology, it was because her well being was a huge priority.

I’m not saying the president’s information is safe, but I have a feeling it is safer than most peoples.

TheRidge January 23, 2009 4:21 PM

The risk of modern tech is a very interesting question in regards to Obama’s presidency. Not only was the Blackberry an issue but now access to blogging and social network sites and various other modern forms of social contact are blocked from the White House staff. It funny, we trust the White House to bring back the economy, address health care policy issues, and not press the red button, but we can’t trust them with modern communications. I realize there are larger risks when a person is president, but the NSA should have been designing processes and policies to address these issues years ago and not just uniformly block it all.

Clive Robinson January 24, 2009 2:42 AM

@ Klug,

I suspect that the problem with the “Barrakberry” (or whatever the press are calling it) and security is not one that has been actualy solved, or has a technical solution.

You have to ask what you mean by “secure” which brings you on to “threat models”.

For the majority of people they still assume they live in a world where the majority of their communications are ephemeral.

Even though the likes of Oliver North etc has shown this not to be the case (and just to keep it fresh in the mind electronic discovery is the latest weapon in the high stakes legal game scaring executives on a daily basis).

It is most definatly not so with POTUS, I belive there is a legal requirment for copies to be kept of all his written words and the corespondance that surrounds them.

Once upon a time POTUS had the sensible let out via verbal briefings etc where questions and answers could be bounced around the Oval Office and “what if” questions no matter how strange could be safely asked so that “all the options” could be considered.

In this modern high speed world where POTUS, his aids and advisors could be anywhere and every where at any time, electronic “written” communications are becoming de facto.

Barrak wants to enjoy the benifits of an “office in his pocket” to do his job more effectivly. But realisticaly can you put all the security of the Oval Office into a pocket?

Effectivly “off the wall what if” questions cannot be asked via modern communications due to the legal constraints.

Potentialy this “human security” issue is a more serious problem than the more normal “technical security” issues we deal with on a day to day basis as the fredom to “explore all options” without worry is curtailed.

averros January 25, 2009 9:51 PM

Bruce: “This doesn’t mean there’s no place for government to be responsible for risks. In airline security, the risks are far greater than any one airline. It makes no sense for airlines to hire security screeners—they can’t do a proper risk analysis—and a lot of sense for the government to step in to fill that role.”

Oh, bullshit. The risk to an airline is a loss of airplane and liability for the loss of life and property of passengers and ground victims. Nothing a regular business insurance cannot take care of. Besides, insurance rates depend on effectiveness of security practices used by the insured company (it’s no different from having your insurance rates lowered if you install alarm or hire guards), which creates incentives for actually implementing the good practices while discontinuing useless or harmful practices.

I you can bet your a* that an airline security expert whose livelihood depends on airline’s staying in business is in a much better position to make a proper risk analysis (I don’t suppose you meant that screeners are doing risk analysis?) than a bureaucrat whose livelihood depends on being able to provide bullshit to his political masters so they can look tough on security.

Paeniteo January 26, 2009 5:51 AM

@Clive: “Effectivly “off the wall what if” questions cannot be asked via modern communications due to the legal constraints.”

What would prevent Obama to use his Blackberry to summon his aides into his office for an “off-the-record” conversation?

If the people in question are, say, on the other side of the world, he would not have been able to meet them without modern communications, so there is no disadvantage compared to deciding to postpone the personal meeting.
However, there would be the option to use modern communications if it is decided that timeliness is paramount to ephemerality (correct word?).

IMHO, perceiving technology as an option is done too rarely, nowadays. People often are under the impression that “if it’s technically possible, we must do it”.
If there is one person in the world to demand an occasional technological downgrade from others, it will be the US-president.

David January 26, 2009 2:35 PM

I believe the Blackberry is, among other things, a telephone, and therefore can be used for verbal (i.e., non-written) communication at a considerable distance. Is there a law that Presidential phone conversations must be preserved?

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