David Gewirtz | BIO
Editor-in-Chief, ZATZ Publishing
We now have some official confirmation that President Obama will be using a BlackBerry device in office. In the first of his Daily Press Briefings, newly minted White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs answered some questions about the President's BlackBerry.
Specifically, he stated:
The President has a BlackBerry through a compromise that allows him to stay in touch with senior staff and a small group of personal friends in a way that use will be limited and that the security is enhanced to ensure his ability to communicate, but to do so effectively and to do so in a way that is protected.
Gibbs was asked a question about record keeping, in particular, those records that are subject to the Presidential Records Act. Gibbs stated that the emails sent on the BlackBerry are all subject to the Presidential Records Act with the exception of "some narrow exemptions in the Presidential Records Act to afford for strictly personal communications."
One statement in Mr. Gibbs briefing was particularly encouraging from a Presidential email security perspective. Gibbs stated, "There's a process by which people that have access to the email will be briefed before anything like that [emailing the President] can happen."
When asked who will have access to the President through his BlackBerry, Gibbs explained that it would be "A limited group of senior staffers and some personal friends. It's a pretty small group of people."
As I mentioned earlier today, it's possible to upgrade an off-the-shelf BlackBerry for increased message security, including adding enhancements to encryption and digital signing.
As long as there's ongoing consideration of all the ramifications of BlackBerry usage by a President of the United States, it's encouraging to see how much this new President wants to keep himself connected to his key associates and friends.
Your email security
Here's one warning, though: if you ever get an email from Barack Obama, it's unlikely to really be from Barack Obama. Unless you've been briefed directly by members of his staff, the email you're getting is not only not from the President, it's probably a malicious message designed to sneak some software onto your computer or sneak some money out of your wallet.
To reuse a term used by Mr. Gibbs repeatedly in the briefing, an "abundance of caution" is important for us all.
Editor’s note: David Gewirtz is Editor-in-Chief, ZATZ Magazines, including OutlookPower Magazine. He is a leading Presidential scholar specializing in White House email. He is a member of FBI InfraGard, the Cyberterrorism Advisor for the International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals, a columnist for The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, and has been a guest commentator for the Nieman Watchdog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He is a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley extension, a recipient of the Sigma Xi Research Award in Engineering and was a candidate for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Letters.
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