Creating a secure line for Obama

Washington - During his first White House campaign, Barack Obama's BlackBerry 8830 seldom left his side.

He used the mobile e-mail reader constantly to run his successful election race.

That dependence made it all the more shocking when White House security told him he'd have to give it up upon assuming office.

The beloved BlackBerry had become an unacceptable security risk.

At Obama's insistence, however, those barriers were eventually overcome: He routinely makes calls and sends one e-mail after another via his BlackBerry.

Yet the ease with which he communicates disguises the vast security infrastructure that had to be set up to secure the president's wired ways.

White House photographs show Obama using a BlackBerry 8900 or other model from the Canadian smartphone manufacturer, which set up a kind of closed net infrastructure for the president.

Like other secured mobiles, Obama's are also protected with encryption software.

People speaking to Obama must use similar systems or have their conversations with him re-encrypted.

As for landline conversations, Obama uses specially designed devices from Telecore and Cisco.

But US security agencies don't rely entirely upon encryption to keep presidential communications secret.

Even without cracking the code, hackers could still pick up Obama's location by figuring out the mobile's position in relation to broadcast towers.

That's why the president always has a secure base station in his region assigned to him, which his mobile uses exclusively.

The station is then connected to the outside world via satellite.

The president's e-mail inbox is also a sensitive area. No attachments are allowed to protect it from viruses.

Only the smallest circle of people even knows the address.

Obama complained to US broadcaster ABC about the communications restrictions in the summer of 2010.

At that point, only 10 people knew how to reach him by e-mail.

"I've got to admit, it's no fun because they think that it's probably going to be subject to the presidential records act, so nobody wants to send me the real juicy stuff," Obama said on ABC's The View programme.

"It's all very official. 'Mr President, you have a meeting coming up and we'd like to brief you.'"

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