The Rising Concern Over Security at Trump Properties

Two dozen House members have asked White House counsel to intervene, saying "these networks may already be stolen and the systems may already be compromised."
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President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose together at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, April 7th, 2017.

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose together at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, April 7th, 2017.

Two dozen House Democrats have sent a letter to White House counsel Donald McGahn, warning that digital security holes at the Trump Organization's clubs and hotels are risks to national security and the secrecy of classified information.

"The White House must act immediately to secure the potentially sensitive information on these systems," said the letter, which was signed by 24 Congress members and went to McGahn last week.

Their concerns were in response to an article published last month by ProPublica and Gizmodo that documented the cybersecurity vulnerabilities at properties the president has frequented since being elected. ProPublica's reporting found unencrypted login pages, servers running outdated software, accessible printers, and Wi-Fi networks that were open to anyone close enough to access them.

We were able to detect vulnerable networks at Mar-a-Lago—Trump's "Southern White House"—from a small motorboat about 800 feet from the club on Florida's Intracoastal Waterway. We also found open Wi-Fi networks at the grounds of the Trump golf courses in Bedminster, New Jersey, and accessible Wi-Fi-enabled printers at Trump's course in Sterling, Virginia.

"To leave these networks unsecured undermines our national priorities and the trust the American people place in the Office of the President," the letter warned.

The White House and the Trump Organization did not comment on the letter.

Representative Eliot Engel (D-New York), the letter's author, said the vulnerabilities revealed by ProPublica's story demand immediate action, but he's received no response from the administration so far. "It needs to be addressed quickly. Potentially every minute something is leaking," he said. "It is too late to close the henhouse after the foxes come in."

Since becoming president, Donald Trump has spent time at his clubs on most weekends and has met with foreign dignitaries like Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago.

In February, members of Mar-a-Lago posted pictures of a dinner meeting between Trump and Abe on the patio of the club. Cybersecurity experts warned that sophisticated hackers could turn guests' cell phones into clandestine listening devices if they gained access to the networks at the club.

Hackers may not need to travel to each of the Trump Organization's clubs and hotels in order to gain access. We found that the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., was hosting a server running software that is more than a decade old and is still accessible from the Internet.

After Propublica notified the company that administers the Trump clubs' websites about their findings, they disabled an insecure login page that lead to a database of sensitive information that we found on Mar-a-Lago's website. However, the company, called Clubessential, has not locked down its customer documentation website, which includes usernames and passwords to internal accounts and is accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

Clubessential did not respond to a request for comment.

"Cyber-criminals and nation states have both the incentive and the ability to hack these networks to obtain sensitive information critical to our national security and international diplomacy," the Congress members' letter said.

Since ProPublica's visits to Trump's properties in early May, the president has spent four weekends at his clubs.

"He's the president of the United States," Engel said. "We should make sure he's secure wherever he is."

This post originally appeared on ProPublica as "Democratic Congress Members Raise Alarm About Security at Trump Properties" and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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