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Congressman Eliot Engel and House Democrats Write to White House Warning of Cybersecurity Deficiencies at Trump Properties PDF Print Email

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By Bryant Daniels, Director of Public Affairs, Office of Rep. Eliot L. Engel


Jun. 14, 2017:  Congressman Eliot Engel, the Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a top member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, penned a letter to White House Counsel Donald McGahn signed by 23 of his House colleagues urging the White House to take immediate action to secure vulnerable networks at Trump properties, including Mar-a-Lago.

Recent reports have highlighted network vulnerabilities at several Trump properties where the President often spends time vacationing, taking meetings, and hosting foreign leaders. Among other deficiencies, these reports uncovered weakly encrypted Wi-Fi networks at Mar-a-Lago, unsuitable for protecting vital information. Full text of the letter can be found below:

June 6, 2017

The Honorable Donald McGahn,
Counsel to the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. McGahn: 

Recent reports have highlighted serious network vulnerabilities at several Trump properties including and especially the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. In light of these reports, we write to urge you to take all necessary steps to immediately secure the networks at Mar-a-Lago, and at the President's other personal properties where he plans to execute the Office of the President of the United States. Cybersecurity experts noted that these vulnerabilities "could be used to remotely turn on the microphones and cameras of devices connected to the network." 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. To leave these networks unsecured undermines our national priorities and the trust the American people place in the Office of the President.

Since taking office in January, the President has spent a substantial amount of time at Mar-a-Lago and has even hosted several foreign leaders there. The President has openly strategized and discussed national security issues on the club's open-air terrace. Much of the information transmitted to Mar-a-Lago, and the President's communications while there, are undoubtedly as sensitive as the information and communications that pass through the White House.

Recent reporting by ProPublica and Gizmodo, unfortunately, brought to light many cyber vulnerabilities that raise questions about the security of information at the retreat. This reporting found unsecured printers on the premises of the resort. Notably, a single unsecured wireless printer can create a back door within a network, creating a full network-wide vulnerability. More generally, unsecured wireless printers can also allow unauthorized persons to intercept sensitive information. To address these problems, the Defense Information Systems Agency requires military facilities to disable all wireless printing features.

Reporting also uncovered a weakly encrypted Wi-Fi network at Mar-a-Lago. The network in question uses a form of encryption that security researchers, for more than a decade, have found unsuitable for protecting sensitive information. Indeed, the U.S. Army prohibits the use of this weak form of encryption. In the Army's Information Assurance Best Business Practice guide, the Army's chief information officer notes that this form of encryption has "fundamental flaws that allow for the rapid compromise of the encryption using readily available tools."

Finally, reporting also demonstrated Mar-a-Lago's public facing website included unencrypted login pages to back-end databases containing sensitive information. Similarly, cyber authorities note that logging into a server remotely with an unencrypted protocol is a major risk. Until these vulnerabilities are addressed, we are concerned that sensitive or even classified information could be readily accessible to cyber criminals or nation states.

While the Government Accountability Office is currently investigating this matter, the White House must act immediately to secure the potentially sensitive information on these systems. Cybersecurity experts note that the data on these networks may already be stolen and the systems may already be compromised. Time is of the essence, and we urge your office to take immediate action. The risks are too high, and these vulnerabilities are too glaring to wait.

Sincerely, 

Eliot L. Engel; Mike Doyle; Brendan F. Boyle; Yvette D. Clarke; Diana DeGette; Anna G. Eshoo; Dwight Evans; Alcee L. Hastings; Sheila Jackson Lee; Pramila Jayapal; Barbara Lee; Ted W. Lieu; Doris Matsui; James P. McGovern; Jerry McNerney; Grace Meng; Donald M. Payne, Jr.; Scott Peters; Jamie Raskin; Bobby L. Rush; John Sarbanes; Carol Shea-Porter; Paul Tonko; Peter Welch. 

Members of Congress

Pictured here:  Congressman Eliot L. Engel.

Photo courtesy Bryant Daniels, Director of Public Affairs, Office of Congressman Eliot L. Engel

 

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Bronxville Overview

Bronxville is a quaint village (one square mile) located just 16 miles north of midtown Manhattan (roughly 30 minutes on the train) and has a population of approximately 6,500. It is known as a premier community with an excellent public school (K-12) and easy access to Manhattan. Bronxville offers many amenities including an attractive business district, a hospital (Lawrence Hospital), public paddle and tennis courts, fine dining at local restaurants, two private country clubs and a community library.

While the earliest settlers of Bronxville date back to the first half of the 18th century, the history of the modern suburb of Bronxville began in 1890 when William Van Duzer Lawrence purchased a farm and commissioned the architect, William A. Bates, to design a planned community of houses for well-known artists and professionals that became a thriving art colony. This community, now called Lawrence Park, is listed on the National register of Historic Places and many of the homes still have artists’ studios. A neighborhood association within Lawrence Park called “The Hilltop Association” keeps this heritage alive with art shows and other events for neighbors.

Bronxville offers many charming neighborhoods as well as a variety of living options for residents including single family homes, town houses, cooperatives and condominiums. One of the chief benefits of living in “the village” is that your children can attend the Bronxville School.

The Bronxville postal zone (10708, known as “Bronxville PO”) includes the village of Bronxville as well as the Chester Heights section of Eastchester, parts of Tuckahoe and the Lawrence Park West, Cedar Knolls, Armour Villa and Longvale sections of Yonkers. Many of these areas have their own distinct character. For instance, the Armour Villa section has many historic homes and even has its own newsletter called “The Villa Voice” which reports on neighborhood news.

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