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July 27, 2018

Bloomberg: Putin's soccer ball for Trump might be bugged

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President Donald Trump received a soccer ball from Russian President Vladimir Putin that is believed to have hidden a listening device.

The soccer ball that Russian President Vladimir Putin gifted to President Donald Trump during their controversial meeting in Helsinki last week may have contained a transmitter chip, according to a report from Bloomberg.

The publication noted that photos of the ball show a logo for a near-field communication (NFC) tag, a chip that is included in the Adidas 2018 FIFA World Cup ball. Russia hosted this year's World Cup.

Thanks to this new technology, fans were able to purchase the balls and scan the NFC code with their phones to unlock exclusive content like videos and information about the games and even the ball itself. Read more on our Twitter account @amomama_usa

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It's all just fun and pretty harmless unless you're worried about actual Russian hacking. Adidas declined to comment on whether the chip could be vulnerable to Russian hacking, according to Bloomberg.

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The NFC chip was introduced at this year's World Cup to up the fan experience. However, the Adidas website says that the chip can't be modified, so it doesn't seem like Russia could use the ball to do much bugging of the White House or anything else.

Linus Neumann, a spokesman for a Hamburg-based hacker collective known as the Chaos Computer Club, told Bloomberg that using the “bugged soccer ball” method to spy on President Trump would likely not be successful.

“Trump would have to ignore multiple security warnings and intentionally install malware on his device,” Neumann said. Scott Schober, a cybersecurity expert, told CNN that the NFC technology would be an unlikely choice for espionage.

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“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.”

Now, the U.S. government regularly screens for covert listening devices in any gifts officials receive from foreign governments.

In a statement to CNN, the Secret Service said that “all gifts given to the President are subject to thorough security screening. The Secret Service does not comment specifically nor in general about the means and methods of our protective responsibilities.”

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