Vladimir Putin’s Soccer Ball Gift For Donald Trump Had Transmitter Chip
Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s gift soccer ball to President Donald Trump may have contained a transmitter chip with a tiny antenna that transmits to nearby phones, Bloomberg reported. Images of the ball from the press conference appear to show a logo indicating it has a chip included as part of standard feature.
Last week’s warnings, some of them only half in jest, that the ball could have listening devices turned out weren’t entirely wrong. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted that he would check it and “never allow in the white house.”
Finally, if it were me, I’d check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) 16. Juli 2018
The chip is an advertised feature of the Adidas AG ball. During manufacturing, the NFC chip is placed inside the ball and allows fans to access player videos, competitions and other content by bringing their mobile devices close to the ball.
According to the Adidas website, the technology works by interacting with smartphones or tablets enabled with “Near Field Communication,” which the company describes as “a digital technology that allows two devices to exchange data or trigger certain actions when physically connected to each other.” The product description on the website says the chip itself can’t be modified. “It is not possible to delete or rewrite the encoded parameters.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in an email, “The security screening process that is done for all gifts was done for the soccer ball. We are not going to comment further on security procedures.” Bloomberg reported that the White House declined to say whether any modifications to the ball had been identified or where the ball would be kept going forward.
Scott Schober, a cybersecurity expert, said in an interview that the technology would be unlikely to be used for espionage and that any gift a U.S. President receives would be thoroughly vetted to ensure it is safe, CNN reported. “This is the kind of technology used for mobile payment with smartphones, and it involves bringing the two devices very close, in this case typically within a couple of centimeters. If anyone had any nefarious motives, they probably picked the wrong technology,” he said.