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Cell Phones, Citizens and OSINT Are Part of Modern Military Threat Intelligence

Cell phones can prove deadly in a war zone. The signals and data they divulge can reveal troop positions, movements, and other information that could inform the enemy.

Cell phone photos are particularly dangerous, especially when posted online, where their location data can expose where and when they were taken.

Ukrainian military intelligence has been able to use the geolocation data in selfies posted by Russian troops to pinpoint their positions and establish their pattern of life, allowing for precision strikes with long-range rockets, missiles, and artillery.

In mid-December, for example, Ukrainians reportedly used such photos to find the location of a Wagner Group headquarters and launch a HIMARS attack believed to have killed many of the group’s fighters.

Moreover, Ukrainian and Western intelligence services have taken advantage of Russian forces’ poor operational security to wage information warfare by publicizing calls Russian troops have made using unsecured networks — including cell phones stolen from Ukrainian civilians — to talk to each other and to their families back in Russia.

In addition, Ukrainians have used their cell phones to report on Russian military movements.

Early in the war, Kyiv repurposed a cell phone app meant to provide government services to allow Ukrainians to upload photos of Russian forces.

Cell phones have also provided accountability, allowing observers to tally losses and to shed light on misdeeds.

Open-source intelligence gleaned from civilian phones and commercial networks is a force multiplier” that “offers alternative pathways for information to travel and sometimes goes beyond military communications, which can be subject to jamming or disruption.

From The Shadows Emerges Knowledge