It was less than a month from the day Rudy Giuliani was named President Donald Trump’s cybersecurity adviser back in 2017 when Apple store workers in San Francisco found him in their presence. Was he looking for the latest tech gadget? There to catch up on the latest from the tech world? Hardly. The cybersecurity adviser was looking for help.
Giuliani was locked out of his phone and needed help getting in. Yes. That’s right. He had entered the wrong passcode at least 10 times according to sources close at hand and a photo from inside the store obtained by NBC News.
One of the former Apple store employees said of the event, “Very sloppy… Trump had just named him as an informal adviser on cybersecurity and here, he couldn’t even master the fundamentals of securing your own device.”
Although a forgotten password is not uncommon, Giuliani’s particular situation does call for speculation. Does he have the necessary and basic security knowledge that someone in his position, in the president’s inner circle, should have? Someone in his position would certainly be prone to hackers, experts say.
Former FBI agent for cybercrime and terrorism E.J. Hilbert said, “There’s no way he should be going to a commercial location to ask for that assistance.”
Another FBI specialist, Michael Anaya, who led a cybersquad said, “That’s crazy.”
Anaya was incredulous that Giuliani or ANYONE with that high of a position would let someone he didn’t know have access to his phone, saying, “You’re trusting that person in the store not to look at other information that is beyond what you’re there to get assistance for… That’s a lot of trust you’re putting into an individual that you don’t know.”
Anaya said that White House staffers should have been in place to help Giuliani, not some random Apple employee. He continued, “It’s unnerving to think that this individual has access to the most powerful person in the world and that sensitive communications could be disclosed to people who should not have access to them.”
Giuliani was spouting off about the incident just as soon as NBC News reported it. He tweeted, “Hey @NBCNews, last I checked the FBI, last year, had to ask Apple to unlock an iPhone too!…We’re all human, just maybe not tonight.”
This is just another in a series of tech missteps from Giuliani. Of course the big news from last month Giuliani twice butt-dialed an NBC reporter and actually left lengthy voicemails about the Bidens, business, and the fact that he needs cash.
Giuliani said in the voicemail,
“The problem is we need some money… We need a few hundred thousand.”Rudy Giuliani
Giuliani has been a key player in the impeachment process due to his efforts to push Ukranian officials to investigate the Bidens.
On Giuliani’s position as cybersecurity adviser, the presidential transition office made the following statement when he was appointed: “This is a rapidly evolving field both as to intrusions and solutions and it is critically important to get timely information from all sources… Mr. Giuliani was asked to initiate this process because of his long and very successful government career in law enforcement and his now sixteen years of work providing security solutions in the private sector.” And yet….
Just a few weeks after that day, Giuliani was waiting for that Apple store to open to hand his phone to a random stranger.
A former employee of the store said, “Stores send out a preliminary scout about 15 minutes before the store opens, in order to try to organize the queues for the day… Rudy G. came across. I forget if I heard it via walkie-talkie, word of mouth, or the software that organized the appointment system.”
The Apple store internal memo, time stamped at 11:20 a.m. on Feb. 7, 2017 explained Giuliani’s visit as follows: “Customer came in with an iPhone that had a forgotten passcode and the phone had been disabled. Proceeded with DFU (device firmware update) restore and will set up the phone again from a current iCloud backup.”
Giuliani’s device was said on the internal memo to be an out-of-warranty iPhone 6 in his name. The number is tied to his consulting firm and he gave the Apple store an email address that includes personal information.
The two former FBI cyber experts said that the two Giuliani incidents- the butt dials and the Apple store- point to a real problem with his mobile phone security.
Anaya said, “I can understand if you’re an auto mechanic or even a lawyer that these issues are not first and foremost in your mind. But I would like to think that for somebody that close to the president, this would be something they would take seriously.”
Anaya continued, “If I were a nation-state actor and that information became available to me, one of the first things I’d do is try to install some piece of malicious software that would allow us to see everything that comes in and out of that device.”
Also troubling is Giuliani’s use of the iCloud storage system.
Hilbert said, “All of his stuff is literally sitting in Apple systems. It makes him very vulnerable… His argument could be: ‘This is my personal phone. It’s not a big deal. I don’t use it for work. My response to that would be in all my years of doing this I’ve never had a case where an individual says, ‘This is my personal device,’ and we didn’t find work stuff on it.”