geolocation, another weakness of the Russian army

YASUYOSHI CHIBA / AFP Ukrainian soldier receives a phone call from his wife while awaiting her orders, in Pereizne, eastern Ukraine, on May 8, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA/AFP)


Geolocation, another weakness of the Russian army (Illustration photo: a Ukrainian soldier in May 2022 makes a phone call to Pereizne in eastern Ukraine)

WAR IN UKRAINE – Geolocate, hit, kill. Dozens or even hundreds of Russian soldiers have paid with their lives for their use of mobile phones in Ukraine, testimony to the Russian army’s technological weakness and blatant indiscipline.

The Ukrainian attack on Makiivka on New Year’s Eve killed 89 people according to Moscow. But Russia’s increasingly influential war correspondent led to hundreds of deaths. kyiv claims 400.

“It is clear that the root cause (…) is the ignition and massive use of mobile phones by personnel within range of enemy weapons, contrary to the ban”admitted, disappointed, the Russian general Sergei Sevrioukov.

Fatal mistake for Russia

“Using a cell phone is extremely dangerous on the battlefield and is rarely worth the risk”especially in Ukraine where the government is very aware “what happened in his home telecommunications network”explained to AFP Joseph Shelzi, researcher at the Soufan Center, in New York.

“The Ukrainian army has demonstrated its ability to combine information elements to target Russian troops”, According to her. In Russia, the controversy is alive. The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) notes that pro-Kremlin organisers and military bloggers have appointed “Ukraine’s ability to exploit bad practices in terms of security of frontline operations”.

Another gap in the army which was described before the conflict as one of the most powerful in the world, but has since testified to its logistical weaknesses, ineffective intelligence, disjointed chains of command, outdated equipment, inadequate joint coordination.

that “myth” Russian technology

“At the beginning of the conflict, the Russians were using encrypted phones but they had problems because they were older generations, dating from the 80s or 90s”she says. “So they use civilian phones”.

In this case, the phone used on New Year’s Eve may not be (encrypted) for operational reasons. But Makiivka’s attack exposed a gaping technological difference.

“Russian military technologies are a myth, they are no good, they are over”, bluntly cut Stéphane Dubreuil, French telecommunications expert. kyiv has advanced Western weaponry, such as the US-supplied Himars rocket launcher, and technical intelligence tools that Moscow lacks.

“There is no 100 to 100 guarantee for anyone not to geolocate with their phone”explains Stéphane Dubreuil, remembering that even a dead laptop is visible. “But you need the ability to calculate and process in real time. Not many countries in the world are capable of doing this.”.

Soldier discipline in question

The strike, the deadliest operation of this war against the army, also proved a problem of discipline, in an army shattered by fighting and recently reinforced by hastily mobilized conscripts, sent to the front lines after basic training. .

“The armed forces go very far in protecting their communications networks”, notes to AFP Nick Brown, an expert from the British private intelligence firm Janes. But “all of this can be undone very quickly if discipline (…) deteriorates and if troop access to personal devices is not tightly controlled”.

He also emphasized mistakes on the part of Russia in terms of operational security. “Recent callers appear to be exacerbating the problem by extensive use of their personal equipment”.

The lethal effectiveness of the attack was also due, recalls Nick Brown, to other mistakes, in particular the placement of many troops in the same location, near an ammunition depot.

Moscow must react so as not to experience the same disappointment. But for Joseph Schelzi, the scenarios are limitless. “A simple solution to limiting the risks posed by cell phones on the battlefield is to eliminate their use altogether”.

Geolocation is already being used to reach other troops

This is not the first time soldiers have been shocked by the geolocation of their soldiers’ phones. In January 2018, the US military discovered that Strava Labs fitness software was enabling the broadcasting of troop locations at bases in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. No real damage, at least in terms of human lives.

Chechen separatist president Dzhokhar Dudayev himself was shot down by a Russian air-to-ground missile in 1996, after his satellite phone was identified.

The death of a Russian general early in the conflict was thus linked to his tank’s heavy telecommunications equipment, which would have allowed Ukraine to detect his presence.

See also at HuffPost:

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