Apparently, Venmo is not as secure and private as you might think. Even for the President of the United States.
Owned by PayPal, Venmo is a digital wallet that lets users quickly send money to their friends. It’s become super popular in recent years…from splitting the check at dinner, to paying the rent, everyone seems to being on Venmo. In fact, a recent New York Times story revealed that even President Joe Biden uses Venmo to send money to his grandchildren!
As Venmo is known for some security risks, a group of journalists at a tech and media website decided to see if they could find the president’s account. And, apparently, they did! According to them, in less than 10 minutes. They did this by exploiting one of the app’s limited security features.
In fact, all these Buzzfeed journalists reported that all had to do to find the President’s account was to just use Venmo’s search and the public friends’ feature. In minutes, they were in possession of sensitive information that could have national security implications.
I know we’re playing catch up on some cyber issues, but, seriously?
While Biden’s transaction information was not breached, Buzzfeed claims it found all the people he was sending money to within the app. This was possible because Venmo does not allow users to make their friends list private.
This “feature” is far from a trivial matter. This feature allowed Buzzfeed reporters to find two members of Congress who were roommates in Washington, DC. This has obvious privacy implications.
In addition to privacy issues, Venmo’s friends’ list can also pose a security risk. The information could potentially be used to map out the President’s purchases in order to stalk him. And if the president is at risk, so is everyone else.
According to Buzzfeed, after the reporters reached out to the White House, President Joe Biden removed everyone from his friends’ list. His account, as well as that of his wife Jill, was subsequently removed.
Venmo agreed to respond to Buzzfeed’s inquiry about the question. They said that they’re “consistently evolving and strengthening the privacy measures for all Venmo users to continue to provide a safe, secure place to send and spend money.”
Anyway, this is one area that probably needs more involvement and more privacy measures.
In the meantime, kudos (we guess?) to Biden for being “with-it” enough to have a Venmo account at his age. Shame on the our intelligence officials for not disbanding it.