Cyber sleuths find Joe Biden’s secret Venmo account in less than 10 minutes revealing a network of his private social connections and causing a potential national security issue
- Hunt started after aide revealed Biden sent money to grandchildren on Venmo
- Within minutes online detectives found his account using the app’s own features
- They found connections to the first family, grandchildren and White House aides
- Digital campaigners said it exposed the vulnerabilities in the payment service
- Biden’s friends list was quickly deleted after White House alerted to its discovery
Cyber sleuths claimed to have identified President Joe Biden‘s secret Venmo account on Friday, saying they found it within 10 minutes of starting their search along with uncovering his network of relatives, friends and allies.
The ease with which they tracked down the world’s most powerful man highlights privacy vulnerabilities of the popular peer-to-peer payment app, according to campaigners.
And it will pose an immediate headache to the White House which carefully guards the president’s security.
The existence of Joe Biden’s secret Venmo account emerged in a newspaper profile in which an aide said he used it to send cash to his grandchildren
The hunt began with a throwaway comment in a New York Times profile. An aide said Biden sometimes sent his grandchildren money using Venmo.
Using the app’s built-in search tool and public friends feature, digital detectives at Buzzfeed News were able to map a network of the Biden family, including grandchildren, senior White House officials and their contacts.
It took a matter of minutes, they said.
After asking the White House for comment, all the contacts on the president’s Venmo account were removed.
Privacy campaigners have long expressed concern about Venmo.
It makes transactions public by default. And there is no way to set an account’s friends list private.
Privacy campaigners fear Venmo’s openness, making transactions transparent, makes it too easy to find someone’s network of friends and family
‘Venmo’s privacy failures are already a big problem for everyday folks who use Venmo, and that’s been the case for years,’ Gennie Gebhart, the acting activism director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told BuzzFeed News.
‘All of those problems are magnified when we’re talking about a major public figure.’
New digital technology has long proved a headache for the people who protect presidents or high-profile politicians.
A hacker apparently accessed Donald Trump’s Twitter account by guessing his password.
And Barack Obama often complained that he was not allowed an iPhone and had to stick with an old fashioned Blackberry.
In 2016 he said he had been allowed an upgrade.
‘I get the thing, and they’re all like, “Well, Mr President, for security reasons … it doesn’t take pictures, you can’t text, the phone doesn’t work, … you can’t play your music on it,”‘ he said.