iPhones are off limits to President Obama for "security reasons"

Filed Under: Android, Apple, BlackBerry, Featured, iOS, Mobile, Security threats

Obama, image courtesy of ShutterstockThe powers that be won't let US President Barack Obama use an iPhone because of security reasons, he told a group of young people while pitching his signature healthcare law at the White House.

From the Wall Street Journal's coverage:

I am not allowed, for security reasons, to have an iPhone.

However, the president's daughters, Sasha and Malia, do have iPhones and "seem to spend a lot of time" using them, he said.

President Obama is constrained to using a phone from the surprisingly enough still-not-dead BlackBerry.

All things Apple are not entirely forbidden, mind you. Mr. Obama can, in fact, use an iPad to scan news headlines and surf the internet, Vanity Fair reported last year.

What's so darn scary about the iPhone?

The US government didn't pass out details so we don't know if they've definitely found something they don't like or they just haven't finished looking yet.

If they're still mulling it over there are a few security-related things they'll want to look at:

That last predilection actually got Siri banned from IBM, given that Big Blue didn't take a shine to the idea that transcripts of its employees' musings would be lying around at Apple.

Another thing that's historically made the US government shy away from Apple is its apparent allergy to openness.

In 2012, when the US was moving to equip military and government officials with mobile devices, it specifically looked to Google's Android operating system to meet its security requirements.

Why not the iPhone? Because Apple has never let developers fiddle with its code as freely as Google has.

In February 2011, Apple did make a tentative step toward opening up, offering a copy of the developer preview of Mac OS X 10.7, aka Lion, to security researchers and asking for feedback - by invitation only, and only under a non-disclosure agreement regarding whatever researchers found.

That door wasn't ajar long. Nine months later, it slammed shut on security researcher Charlie Miller - aka "that Apple 0day guy" - who had the gall to uncover a potentially dangerous bug he found in iOS that allowed unapproved code to be run on iPads and iPhones.

Miller packed a proof-of-concept bug into a fake stock ticker program for distribution in Apple's App Store.

Apple didn't appreciate it.

Instead of thanking him for pointing out a dangerous hole with a harmless demo, they ripped up Miller's license as an Apple developer.

Obviously, Apple has a history of being a bit queasy when it comes to opening up its code.

Likewise, there is nothing surprising whatsoever about the Feds refusing to open the doors of the White House to the iPhone - at least, not to the commander in chief.

Sorry, President Obama. I hope that getting to use your iPad is some consolation.

Image courtesy of Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock.com

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8 Responses to iPhones are off limits to President Obama for "security reasons"

  1. Wilford Fatuous · 671 days ago

    "Getting to use his ipad is consolation" for what? What is he missing?

    • Lisa Vaas · 669 days ago

      He's an Apple/Steve Jobs fan, so obviously he's missing out on using all things iGadget.

  2. NoSpin1600 · 671 days ago

    Makes sense, the U.S. government won't allow iPhone or Android devices both made by American based companies but instead lets the President use a BlackBerry made by a foreign company and whose servers all emails pass through RIM, yes I know they are encrypted but still.

    • I guarantee that's now how it works on his particular BlackBerry. It's a heavily modified device that I'm sure bears very little resemblance to the standard model.

  3. Richard Castle · 671 days ago

    And don't forget about that AT&T incident.

  4. Meh, we knew this when he went into office almost 6 years ago. DoD has been using BlackBerry Enterprise Server for a while, I'm sure this has something to do with it. There have been rumors that the U.S. government has been looking into other ideas and phones, but it takes time to test and invest in new equipment.

  5. Andrew · 671 days ago

    one possibility is the IPhone would make him a target.

  6. Stephen H · 671 days ago

    Of course, the iPhone could be banned because Apple has allowed some government agency to undermine its security after said agency mentioned "terrorism".


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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.