Obama boosted White House technology, Trump sees risks

2017-01-02 08:04
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Green Bay. (Evan Vucci, AP)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Green Bay. (Evan Vucci, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - As Barack Obama began preparing to leave office, the first smartphone-toting US president ordered his team to upgrade the White House's ageing technology for his successor. New computers were purchased and faster internet was installed.

Not included in the modernisation plans? A courier service.

But that delivery method of a bygone era may be in for a comeback under Donald Trump. Despite his voracious use of Twitter, the president-elect appears to be leaning toward old tech to ensure the security of sensitive messages.

"It's very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way because I'll tell you what, no computer is safe," Trump told reporters on Saturday in response to questions about Russia's alleged hacking of Democrats during the presidential election. Trump, who doesn't email or surf the internet, said days earlier that computers "have complicated lives very greatly". 

Trump's scepticism of some technology marks a sharp contrast from the president he'll replace on January 20. Obama, who was a youthful 47 when he took office, carries a specially outfitted Blackberry, emails with a small number of friends and aides, and has received some of his daily security briefings on an iPad. He celebrated technological innovations at an annual science fair, created the job of chief technology officer in the White House and viewed technology as key to making the sprawling federal government more efficient and responsive to the public.

But technology has also been a burden for Obama. Online sign-ups for his health care law were crippled by massive technical issues, resulting in one of the most embarrassing episodes of his presidency. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden stole classified information that he leaked to journalists, revealing the Obama administration's bulk collection of millions of Americans' phone records, as well as US spying on some friendly foreign leaders.

Twitter

Trump, 70, rarely uses a computer and sifts through stacks of newspapers, magazines and printed articles to read the news. He panned candidates' reliance on data and technology in presidential campaigns, preferring to make decisions in part based on the reaction from audiences at his rallies. While Trump's tweetstorms are already legendary, he utters some of his messages out loud and leaves the actual typing to aides.

Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he expects Trump to continue using Twitter and other social media sites as president, casting it as an effective way to communicate with Americans.

"Absolutely, you're going to see Twitter," Spicer said Sunday on ABC's This Week. ''I think it freaks the mainstream media out - that he has this following of 45-plus million people that follow him on social media" and he "can have a direct conversation" with them.

Trump has shown some interest in technology since winning the White House. Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel has been working with Trump's transition team and could serve as an adviser to the administration. Trump met with several Silicon Valley executives last month, telling them his administration was "here to help you folks do well". 

As Trump heads into the White House, some of the biggest questions surrounding his relationship with technology will involve security. US intelligence agencies say Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and a top aide to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the election, exposing the vulnerabilities of systems in Washington. Revelations that Clinton used a personal email and private internet server during her four years as Obama's secretary of state highlighted the lax practices that exist in government.

As a candidate, Trump called for an immediate review of US cyber defences and vulnerabilities, though he has not detailed specific steps he plans to take to bolster cyber security and has not publicly accepted the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia was behind the election year hacking. Nor has Trump outlined any changes in the way he expects the White House to use technology for day-to-day work.

Bruce Schneier, a technology security expert, said Trump was right to question the safeguards that exist for protecting his own communications as president.

"If the Russian spies want to get at his data, no computer is probably safe," said Schneier, a fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. "Everything is vulnerable."

Of course, the courier system Trump suggests is hardly foolproof, either. After the US killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, administration officials said they had gleaned crucial information on his whereabouts by tracking the al-Qaeda leader's courier.

Read more on:    twitter  |  barack obama  |  donald trump  |  us  |  cyber security  |  social networks  |  us 2016 elections

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.