Did a soccer ball Putin gave Trump contain an “emitter chip”?

On July 16, 2018, US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a controversial summit in Helsinki, Finland. In an equally controversial press conference following a meeting between the two men, Putin (whose country had just hosted the FIFA World Cup) offered Trump an “official matchball” from the FIFA World Cup. 2018 FIFA World Cup as a gift. Many, including US Senator Lindsey Graham, have warned Trump to make sure the bullet is not “bugged” with a built-in listening device:

The idea that Putin’s gift was bugged attracted more attention after Bloomberg commented on the likely existence of a small near-field communication (NFC) chip implanted in the balloon. “Putin gave Trump a soccer ball that could have an emitter chip,” CNN reported. “Yes, that soccer ball Vladimir Putin gave Trump had a transmission chip,” a headline read on The root. These and similar titles lacked the fact that each Adidas ball in this model had an NFC chip that provides customers with “exclusive” content.

By tapping a cell phone on these NFC chip balls, explains the Adidas website, users will be directed to the “Telstar 18 experience”:

The experience offers different features such as exclusive product information, adidas football content, competitions and special challenges, etc. Features will be updated, so… keep typing!

NFC technology enables short range communication between two devices and is commonly used in mobile payment systems. These systems involve a powered device (usually a mobile phone) that generates a radio field which, in turn, interacts with the chip (if they are physically nearby) in a way that allows data transfer. “Compared to other wireless protocols like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, NFC is extremely slow,” explained a 2011 Popular science article. One of the advantages of NFC, however, is that it requires very little power to operate.

Adidas assures its customers that it is “not possible” to “rewrite the encoded parameters of the chip”, but while this may be true, a different The NFC chip could be intentionally fabricated to direct a phone, for example, to download malicious content. In 2015, former US Navy Petty Officer Seth Wahle inserted an NFC chip in his hand “this ping[ed] Android phones, asking them to open a “link which could then, theoretically, be used to further leverage the phone.

Linus Neumann, spokesperson 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 probably wouldn’t not a success. “Trump should ignore several security warnings and intentionally install malware on his device,” Neumann said. Scott Schober, a cybersecurity expert, told CNN that NFC technology would be an unlikely choice for espionage: a few inches. If someone had nefarious motives, they probably chose the wrong technology. “

RT, a state-funded Russian international television network, scoffed at claims that the inclusion of this chip could be seen as an attempt to spy on the president:

While some in the United States believed they had discovered an ingenious and nefarious Kremlin ploy to eavesdrop on Trump’s conversations – seemingly oblivious to the president’s prolific and bulky Twitter output – the technology is simply a hallmark of any old bullet. which you can pick up at your local store.

As benign as this giveaway may have been, Russia has a habit of pestering US government offices with “giveaways” containing spy technology. In August 1945, W. Averell Harriman, the United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union, received a famous carved wooden plaque of the Great Seal of the United States as a gift from the “Young Pioneer Organization of the Union”. Soviet ”. Years later, in 1952, American and British officials discovered a listening device contained inside the seal. Similar to RFID and NFC devices, this system was passive, only working when the Soviets transmitted a specific radio frequency to the area.

Now, the US government routinely searches for secret listening devices in all 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 extensive security screening. The secret services do not comment specifically or in general on the means and methods of our protective responsibilities. “