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With new iPhone, Trump still a target for hackers

President Donald Trump has a new phone. An iPhone.

That would not ordinarily be news, but given the security concerns about the risk of hack attacks on the prolific White House tweeter, the shift is significant.

Cybersecurity specialists say Trump's decision to transition from his Android device -- details of which were never disclosed but which was believed to be an unsecured, older-model Samsung -- is positive for security, but doesn't eliminate risks from hackers.

"I can guarantee the Russians and Chinese will try to figure out an attack," said John Dickson, a former air force cybersecurity officer who now works for the Texas-based Denim Group consulting firm.

White House social media chief Dan Scavino confirmed the smartphone shift this week, tweeting that Trump "has been using his new iPhone for the past couple of weeks here on Twitter. Yes, it is #POTUS45 reading & tweeting!"

Dickson said security will depend on how the president is using the device -- whether it is exclusively for tweeting -- and if it is plugged into an enterprise management system that can "wall off" vulnerabilities.

"If it's a single-purpose device, the risk is minimal," he said. "But as soon as you start clicking on things, downloading apps, granting access, that's when things matter tremendously."

Mobile devices can be hacked to allow an attacker to listen via the phone's microphone, access its camera, monitor geolocation or even take over the handset remotely.

Former president Barack Obama carried a BlackBerry, and later a different smartphone, with security modifications that limited its functions.

Trump's switch comes despite his call for a boycott a year ago of the iPhone maker for refusing FBI requests to help hack a device for a probe into a deadly California attack.

- More secure? -

Some analysts say Apple devices may offer more security because the company controls the hardware and software and frequently updates its operating system. Apple did not respond to an AFP query on Trump's decision.

Betsy Cooper, executive director of the University of California's Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity said that despite Apple's reputation, recent research has shown "that both iPhones and Android can be abused by hackers."

Cooper said it remains unclear how the president's social media is managed -- what devices are used and who has access to his personal @realDonaldTrump and official @POTUS handles on Twitter.

From a security standpoint, "it would be better to eliminate the personal accounts and use only government devices and government-protected social media accounts," Cooper said.

Concerns of hacking come following Trump's unverified allegation that his phones were tapped during last year's election campaign, and after leaked documents from former contractor Edward Snowden showed US tapping of German leader Angela Merkel's personal phone.

Some phones are marketed as "hardened" or secure devices for people in power, but it wasn't clear if these are used at the White House.

- Phone as 'honeypot'? -

Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the California-based International Computer Science Institute, said Trump's phone swap "massively reduces, but does not completely eliminate, the security risks."

But while he agreed foreign governments are likely to try to hack the phone, Weaver said US intelligence services may have modified it to be "a nice honeypot to trap attempted attacks."

A honeypot is a technique used to lure hackers and attackers to identify them and find ways to neutralize or punish them.

Weaver said in a blog post earlier this year that Trump's use of an older Android device opened massive security risks and that "the working assumption should be that Trump's phone is compromised by at least one -- probably multiple -- hostile foreign intelligence services."

At the time, it was not clear what type of handset Trump was using, but a New York Times report after the inauguration said he was using "his old, unsecured Android phone."

Last month, Representative Ted Lieu of California called for an investigation, saying Trump's phone use may be "jeopardizing national security."

Dickson said that even with strong security, the president could fall victim to an attack if he uses his phone for email and web browsing.

This could be in the form of "spearphishing," or a message disguised to look as if it's from a trusted aide or family member, but which contains malware.

"This is what sophisticated attackers do," Dickson said, and because the president's activities are widely known, "he would be an easier target for spearphishing."

US stocks shake gloom as oil tops $50/barrel

Wall Street stocks rallied Thursday, shrugging off uncertainty over President Donald Trump's agenda and advancing as US fourth-quarter growth was upgraded and oil prices rose above $50 a barrel.

Stocks were mixed elsewhere, with markets in Frankfurt and Paris rising, Tokyo falling and London flat.

US investors took heart after the US Commerce Department revised GDP growth up by 0.2 points to 2.1 percent for the final three months of last year, due in part to more robust personal consumption spending.

Analysts also cited gains in the oil market, which closed above $50 in the US for the first time in more than three weeks after Kuwait's oil minister endorsed OPEC output curbs.

Major US indices climbed 0.3 percent, with banking shares doing especially well. Still, analysts continued to recalibrate expectations for US policy changes after Trump's health care plan died in Congress last week.

"Over the last three or four weeks it has become apparent to many market participants that the new administration's proposals would take some time to implement -- that is if any of them ever get implemented at all," Wells Fargo global equity strategist Scott Wren said in a note.

"Investors are taking more of a wait-and-see approach and not jumping in with both feet at this point," Wren added. "That likely is a wise decision considering the legislative uncertainty that lies ahead."

Earlier in Asia, stock prices fell as Chinese authorities tightened liquidity in the financial system of the world's second-largest economy.

Shanghai ended down 1.0 percent, while the Nikkei in Japan lost 0.8 percent, despite a rally in Toshiba shares after the embattled conglomerate won shareholder support for a motion to spin-off its prized memory chip business.

The approval came after it announced its loss-hit US nuclear unit Westinghouse Electric Company has filed for bankruptcy protection. Toshiba gained 4.0 percent.

ConocoPhillips jumped 8.8 percent after announcing a deal to sell 50 percent of the Foster Creek Christina Lake oil sands project, as well as some Canadian natural gas assets, to Cenovus for $13.3 billion.

Cenovus slumped 13.7 percent as the DBRS rating agency placed the company under review for a possible credit rating downgrade.

- Key figures at 2100 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 20,728.49 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.3 percent at 2,368.06 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.3 percent at 5,914.34 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,369.52 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.4 percent at 12,256.43 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.4 percent at 5,089.64 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,481.58 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.8 percent at 19,063.22 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.4 percent at 24,301.09 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 1.0 percent at 3,210.24 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0679 from $1.0767

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2467 from $1.2440

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.86 yen from 111.04

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 54 cents at $52.96 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 84 cents at $50.35 per barrel

burs-jmb/hs

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