Sometimes, you do need to look a gift horse in the mouth.
In the midst of a joint press conference with President Trump and Vladimir Putin, the Russian president handed Trump a 2018 FIFA World Cup soccer ball as a gift. Trump thanked him and told him he’d be giving the ball to his young son Barron.
Social media instantly lit up with alarm with people like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warning, “if it were me, I’d check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House.”
Many of the dire warnings appeared to come with the attitude that Trump handles Putin without suspicion — something White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has repeatedly fought against. As is the standard procedure with all gifts, the White House closely examined it, Bloomberg reported.
And they found something.
Inside the World Cup souvenir that Putin gifted to Trump was a microchip with a tiny transmitting antenna. But before you assume that the Russians are attempting what has to be one of the silliest attempts at spying ever, there’s something to consider: These chips are actually standard for these particular Adidas soccer balls.
But, that doesn’t mean there is no risk.
The chips are an Adidas feature that allows people to hold their smartphone up to the ball to watch a video that’s being transmitted from the ball to their phone. If that doesn’t sound ridiculously futuristic and completely useless, you’re not alone.
While the transmitter chip does not take video or record audio, the fact that it can transmit something to your phone does, in theory, open it up to nefarious plots.
According to Forbes, someone was able to hack one of these types of chips in 2015 and use it to send a request to a nearby phone to open up a link. The link was clicked on, and a virus took over the phone.
So theoretically, a Russian hacker could tamper with a soccer ball chip to send Barron a bad link to open and take control of his smartphone — if he even has one. If he does, the security restrictions on a sending and receiving device used by the 12-year-old son of a U.S. president would be much more closely monitored than Hillary’s
Did the White House find a digital Trojan horse in the soccer ball? In assuring the public that the gift was thoroughly examined, Sanders did not indicate that the chip had been manipulated in any way.
We can all calm down now.