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Nov. 2, 2019, 12:08 p.m. EDT

Giuliani equates getting his iPhone unlocked at Apple store to FBI seeking to crack suspect’s phone

NBC News reports another troubling lapse in digital security at White House

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By Mike Murphy


Reuters
Rudy Giuliani speaks in Washington in 2018.

“Last I checked the FBI, last year, had to ask Apple to unlock an iPhone too! We’re all human...”

That’s what Rudy Giuliani said in a tweet late Thursday, in response to an NBC News report earlier in the day that he took his iPhone to an Apple store to get it unlocked after he forgot his password.

“Hey @NBCNews, last I checked the FBI, last year, had to ask Apple to unlock an iPhone too! We’re all human, just maybe not tonight...” he tweeted, ending with a jack-o-lantern emoji.

Giuliani, who is President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, was apparently referring to the FBI effort to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino mass shooter in 2016. Apple refused to unlock it , and the FBI eventually was able to access the phone with the help of a third party .

Besides the fact that Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL -4.75%   did not unlock that iPhone, Giuliani apparently missed the point of the NBC News report — that less than a month after being named White House cybersecurity adviser in 2017, he reportedly took his phone to an unsecure location to get unlocked — potentially a major security breach for someone in the president’s inner circle.

“There’s no way he should be going to a commercial location to ask for that assistance,” former FBI agent E.J. Hilbert, who worked in cybercrime and terrorism, told NBC News.

Other experts agreed, saying it was “crazy” that Giulaini let someone he did not know — and had no security clearance — access his phone, and that vetted White House staffers should be able to handle such technical issues.

“It’s unnerving to think that this individual has access to the most powerful person in the world and that sensitive communications could be disclosed to people who should not have access to them,” Michael Anaya, a former FBI agent who led a cyber squad, told NBC News.

It’s not the first report of troubling lapses in digital security at the White House. In 2018, Politico reported that Trump used personal cell phones that were not equipped with sophisticated security software, leaving them vulnerable to hacking, and that Trump had rebuffed attempts to replace his phones because it would be “inconvenient.” The White House denied that report and said his call-capable phone was swapped out regularly, though the phone he tweets on does not need to be.

Last week, Giuliani reportedly “butt-dialled” an NBC News reporter, leaving an accidental voice mail message in which he apparently talked about a security arrangement with a Middle Eastern nation. Giuliani reportedly butt-dialed the same reporter a few weeks prior.

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