In a friendly gesture during their joint press conference in Helsinki, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a soccer ball to President Donald Trump. A new investigative report from Bloomberg revealed that the soccer ball may have had something extra inside.
The Adidas AG soccer ball, like the one Putin gifted to Trump, contain a small transmitter inside that can send videos and other related content to mobile devices that are nearby. Markings on the ball tipped off investigative journalists that there may be more than meets the eye. According to the Hill, the ball was marked with a NFC tag, which stands for near-field communication.
The NFC chips were placed in the AG balls by Adidas as part of their World Cup 2018 promotions in which fans nearby were given access to exclusive content including player videos, competitions and other promotions.
An attempt was made to get a comment from Adidas about the possibility of the transmitter being used for potentially nefarious actions, Adidas declined. However, according to their website, the chip can't be modified. “It is not possible to delete or rewrite the encoded parameters,” the site says.
Despite the NFC chip's low capabilities, it is not out of the realm of possibility in which the chip can be used to access a phone. According to Bloomberg, an engineer successfully used the chip in 2015 to transmit a link to a phone that if opened by the user would install malicious files on the phone.
The scenario of a hack originating from Putin's gift is highly improbable. Even in a worst case scenario in which Putin would willingly try to use the chip to access President Trump's phone, it would come down to the individual user. In that scenario, President Trump would have to ignore major security protocol and click on a malicious link.
Shortly after President Trump accepted Putin's gift, Senator Lindsay Graham voiced concerns about the ball. "Finally, if it were me, I’d check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House," Graham tweeted.
The soccer ball, like every gift the President receives, went through a rigorous security check by the Secret Service rendering any potential security breaches highly improbable.