Heather Kuldell | Nextgov | May 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Report: Mar-a-Lago and Other Trump Properties Have Lax Cybersecurity

President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. Alex Brandon/AP File Photo

Unsecured Wi-Fi networks, wireless printers and misconfigured servers represent a few of the poor cybersecurity practices found by reporters who poked around Trump resorts and hotels, including the “Winter White House,” Mar-a-Lago.

Armed with a directional Wi-Fi antenna gun and “easily available software,” a team of Gizmodo and ProPublica reporters found “weak and open” Wi-Fi networks at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, the Trump International Hotel in D.C., and the Trump National Golf Clubs in New Jersey and Virginia.

So what’s the big deal? While a hotel guest may enjoy a password-free Wi-Fi network, it sets a low hurdle for snooping on a president. For example, an open Wi-Fi network could allow a third party to intercept unencrypted internet traffic while a more sophisticated attacker could turn on the cameras and microphones of devices connected to the network, the report said.

» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

That’s one of the fears that urged lawmakers to push for a Government Accountability Office investigation into the security at Mar-a-Lago after the club’s guests posted pictures to Facebook of President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe examining national security documents. Trump later hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago.

“These networks have to be crawling with foreign intruders, not just [Gizmodo and] ProPublica,” Immunity CEO Dave Aitel told Gizmodo.

The hospitality industry isn’t a stranger to cyberattacks, though they often focus on nabbing payment information from front desks. In the fall, the Trump hotel chain paid a $50,000 penalty after breaches exposed 70,000 credit card numbers.

A Trump Organization spokeswoman told Gizmodo the business follows cybersecurity best practices and uses "best-in-class firewall and anti-vulnerability platforms." It spends more than $440,000 on security—not specifically digital—at Mar-a-Lago while the Defense Information Systems Agency spends $64 million on the networks at the traditional presidential vacation spot, Camp David, the report said.

In this security assessment, the reporters said they could have hacked Mar-a-Lago “in less than five minutes” but didn’t. A week ago, Gizmodo published the results of another security experiment, sending phishing emails to 15 people associated with the Trump administration, including cybersecurity adviser Rudy Giuliani. Eight clicked the link, Gizmodo said.


Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.