The World Cup soccer ball given to President Trump by Russian President Vladimir Putin is a model that typically contains a microchip and antenna — further raising concerns the gift could be bugged, according to a report.
Adidas’ World Cup Official Game Balls are manufactured with a near field communication chip similar to wireless payment systems that can communicate with mobile phones. The gift Putin gave Trump in Helsinki last week bore markings indicating the ball contained just such a chip, Bloomberg reports. NFC chips can be used to launch attacks on cell phones. An engineer in 2015 demonstrated that one could be used to send a malicious link to a nearby Android phone, according to Forbes, which noted the link installs a file that can take control of the device.
“Trump would have to ignore multiple security warnings and intentionally install a malware on his device,” said Linus Neumann of the German hacker collective Chaos Computer Club, noting the success or failure of any such attack would rely on the president “falling for a silly attack like this.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders would not say whether the ball had been altered of whether the President would keep the gift.
“The security screening process that is done for all gifts was done for the soccer ball,” she told Bloomberg. “We are not going to comment further on security procedures.” Trump previously said he’d give the ball to his son Barron.