Russian President Vladimir Putin gave President Donald Trump an Adidas soccer ball at a press conference last week in Helsinki – and the ball may have contained an emitter chip.
Images of the balloon Putin handed to Trump appear to show a logo indicating that he has a chip included as part of a standard feature.
The Adidas website explains that the technology gives users access to “different features” including “exclusive product information, adidas football content, special competitions and challenges.”
Bloomberg first pointed out the logo for the soccer ball‘s transmitter chip.
The US secret service said in a statement: âAll 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. ”
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment on the ball.
It’s not clear whether the balloon Putin gave Trump contained the advertised device – and even if it does, that doesn’t mean it necessarily poses a security risk.
According to the Adidas website, the technology works by interacting with smartphones or tablets compatible with “Near Field Communication,” which the company describes as “a digital technology that allows two devices to exchange data or trigger. certain actions when they are physically connected to each other. ”
Scott Schober, a cybersecurity expert, said in an interview that the technology was unlikely to be used for espionage and that any gift a US president received would be carefully vetted to ensure it is on.
âThis is the kind of technology used for mobile payment with smartphones, and it involves bringing the two devices very close together, in this case usually within a few inches. If someone had bad motives, they probably chose the wrong technology, âhe said.
Schober added, âThey will carefully consider any gift. They’ll probably x-ray it and scan it to see if there’s a radio frequency emanating from it. ”
There has already been speculation, however, that the gift might not be secure.
On the same day Putin gave Trump the soccer ball, Republican Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham tweeted a warning, saying that “if it was me, I would check the soccer ball for listening devices and never let it enter the White House.”
Adidas declined to comment on whether the chip could be compromised by hackers. Its website states that “it is not possible to remove or rewrite the encoded parameters” of the beacon enabled with communications technology.
At the press conference where Putin offered the soccer ball, Trump stunned observers – and drew a rebuke from top Republicans in Congress – by refusing to endorse the U.S. intelligence community’s findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.
After the press conference, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a statement claiming that âMoscow’s efforts to undermine our democracyâ are âongoingâ and âpervasiveâ.
Amid a backlash, Trump later said he misspoke at the press conference and held Putin personally responsible for the election interference.