September 16, 1997
HACKERS EXPOSE VULNERABILITY IN WHITE HOUSE SECURITY
New York - A hacker in New York today unveiled a glaring flaw in the way the White House conducts security for the President and the First Family. The hacker, an organizer with the Hackers On Planet Earth (HOPE) conference, released a transcript of pager messages that the President's entourage uses to report his location during the day.
The pager messages were intercepted with a commonly available pager interception program on April 27, 1997 during a presidential visit to Philadelphia (see URL below), show the Chief Executive's movements and messages as he travels to the Convention Center to deliver a keynote speech, alongside former Presidents Carter, Ford, and Bush. The messages detail, step by step, the President's movements along the route to the stadium and include messages from the press and daughter Chelsea Clinton awaiting him at the White House switchboard.
"We are publicizing this flaw in the hopes that it will finally be fixed," said Pamela Finkel, one of the organizers of the HOPE conference and a lead spokesperson for the group. "It's an excellent example of why we need encryption to protect sensitive information."
The technique for capturing pager messages is not new, and was demonstrated at the first HOPE conference in 1994. "Throughout the conference, one person left a computer running the easily obtained scanning software, sampling pages as they were being delivered to pagers," she said.
"I hope that this demonstration causes encryption to be added to the pager network," said Finkel. "This incident shows that the President's policy on encryption is so poorly crafted that it could have even compromised his own personal security."
Pamela Finkel can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The HOPE conference is sponsored by 2600, a magazine devoted to issues of telecommunications and security.