The breach was discovered this summer when Kelly gave his personal phone to White House IT staff because it was not functioning properly, unnamed government sources told Politico on Thursday.
Kelly brought the phone to IT after experiencing issues updating the software.
Kelly told the staffers the phone hadn't been working properly for months, according to the officials.
Kelly, 67, a retired Marine general, was named Homeland Security Secretary in January, joining the White House staff in July. It's unclear at this time what entity breached the former Marine general's handset, but it's not hard to guess who would be interested in gaining access to the device that handles personal communications for a top U.S. official. According to the report, Kelly said he had been experiencing problems with the device for several months before finally deciding to have tech support examine it.
White House computer staff identified a breach after Kelly handed in his cell phone, asking for tech support help, according to Politico.
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It's unclear how bad the hack is, or where Kelly's phone was infected with the malware.
"The [attackers] I would be most anxious about are nation-states or other actors who may have access to resale of commercial spyware sold to nation-states".
The hack of White House chief of staff's phone is coming to light only now because the Trump administration produced a memo about the incident last month. "Really the only way to pick up on that is to do forensics on the phone".
Officials are so far unable to pinpoint an exact culprit and time when the phone was first compromised.