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Obama’s new NSA-approved PDA

January 23, 2009

One story I didn’t mention last week, but which still seems to be doing the rounds, is the saga of new US President Obama´s PDA. Obama is well-known as a Blackberry-addict, using it constantly during the campaign, but as CNET pointed out such wireless devices are known to be highly insecure and vulnerable to all kinds of illicit monitoring and capture. There is, however, one device approved by the US National Security Agency (NSA), which its own employees use, the Sectera Edge Secure Mobile Environment Portable Electronic Device (SME PED), made by defence contractor, General Dynamics C4 Systems of Scottsdale, Arizona. It looks pretty similar to athe Palm Treo series, apart from the strengthned chasis, ‘secure’ ports and special ‘trusted’ display… all this for just $3500! (I hope he´s better at not losing his phones than me…)

Obama´s new PDA

Obama's new PDA

The rest of us, I guess will just have to put up with our insecure communications. The CNET article gives plenty of scary examples of just how insecure they are to simple hacking, even without the NSA’s rather more sophisticated programs. Of course even such NSA-approved ‘secure’ systems will undoubtedly have built-in backdoors that are accessible to the NSA, which is one of the main reasons they are even involved in the development of such technologies. And it is not just these unusual products of course – remember the Windows backdoor revelations from a few years back? Or further back, the Swedish government’s discovery that the NSA could access all their encrypted Lotus Notes documents – this later reverse engineering of the backdoor by Adam Back shows that the spooks are not without a (very bleak) sense of humour. Obama might now have secure communications, but there is always one agency whose evesdropping even he will not be able to avoid…

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