Russian President Vladimir Putin gave President Donald Trump a soccer ball during the Helsinki summit as a gift. However, it may not have been just that.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), while lamenting Trump’s “missed opportunity” to hold Putin accountable during the summit, advised the POTUS to check the ball for a listening device — and it turns out his concern might actually hold some weight.
Finally, if it were me, I’d check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 16, 2018
Images of the ball, handed to Trump by Putin, showed it might contain a chip that transmits signals to nearby phones and tablets upon connection. The gift was the official match ball used at the FIFA world cup 2018 — hosted by Russia.
According to Adidas’ office website — the company that has manufactured the ball — the chip is a standard feature in the Telstar 18.
The technology used — near-field communication (NFC) — for the ball is used to connect to nearby devices — offering “different functionalities like exclusive information about the product, Adidas football content, special competitions and challenges, etc.”
The chip is placed under the logo which resembles a “Wi-Fi signal” and can be seen on the ball presented to the POTUS.
However, it is near impossible to tell from pictures if the NFC chip in the ball is replaced by a listening device or maybe, although much less likely, the entire ball is a fabricated version of the original Telstar 18.
When asked if the ball presented any security threats, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sander’s reply was a little stingy.
“The security screening process that is done for all gifts was done for the soccer ball,” Sanders said in an email. “We are not going to comment further on security procedures.”
According to the information on the company’s website, the chip would likely not pose any security threats. “It is not possible to delete or rewrite the encoded parameters” of the NFC tag.
However, such chips are used in some contactless payments, including those with Apple Pay and Google Pay, which can be hacked — at least in theory.
According to a 2015 Forbes report, an engineer used an NFC chip to send a link to a nearby Android phone — which if opened, would then take over the device.
However, not many experts believe the soccer ball would be used for an attack on the president.
“Trump would have to ignore multiple security warnings and intentionally install a malware on his device,” said Linus Neumann, a spokesman for the Hamburg-based Chaos Computer Club, which has long exposed weaknesses in German security and banking system.
Although, ignoring official warnings might sound incredulous but with Trump, the White House security team might just have to be extra careful.
Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger