Russia’s war in Ukraine shows why soldiers must learn to put their phones away, says US Marine general

Handheld electronics for marine tablets

A Marine uses a handheld electronic device at Marine Corps Base Quantico in March 2013.U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Isaac Lamberth

  • Russia’s war in Ukraine clearly showed the consequences of communication failure.

  • For US military leaders, the war highlights the need to manage the electronic signatures of their armed forces.

  • To do this, younger soldiers will have to unlearn certain habits, says the top general of the Marine Corps.

The use of new technologies on the battlefield has prompted the U.S. military to rethink its actions as it prepares for future conflict with a high-tech adversary, and many of its changes have been confirmed by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, U.S. Marine Commander Gen. David Berger said this month.

One of the most important lessons is that your electronics convey more information about you than you think, said Berger, who has led efforts to develop the ability to operate in a more distributed manner since becoming the Corps’ top officer in July. 2019.

The risks posed by electronic emissions are significant to Marines because these emissions can allow rivals to track them, listen to their communications, or attack them.

“We must be separated. You must have enough mobility to move your unit around quite often. You have to learn everything – as some of us learned 30 years ago – camouflage, decoys, deception,” Berger said at a meeting in defense of the Writers Group event on December 8. “What we didn’t worry about so much 30 years ago is that every time you push a button, you emit.”

For young soldiers, sailors and marines, mobile phones and other devices are part of everyday life, and managing emissions from these devices will require unlearning some habits, Berger said.

The Marine Corps recruits cell phones

New Marine Corps recruits turn in cell phones at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in October.U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Jacob Hutchinson

“They don’t think about pushing a button. This is what they do all day. Now we have to completely take back 18 years of communicating all day long and tell them this is wrong. It’ll kill you, so turn your cell phone off,” Berger said at the event. “They’re like, ‘I’m not touching that. It just stays.” No, there are parts of the cell phone you don’t understand.”

Cell phone targeting has been part of the fighting between Russia and Ukraine since 2014. Russian hackers used malware in phone apps to track Ukrainian artillery units and sent propaganda to Ukrainian phones using simulators imitating cell towers.

Phones have been a vulnerability in Russia since its military invaded Ukraine in February. Ukrainians and foreign governments tapped Russian soldiers using unsecured phones to talk to each other and to their families in Russia. The Ukrainians also reportedly tracked Russian generals making unsecured calls and used the information to launch attacks.

In recent years, the phones of U.S. and allied soldiers in Europe have also been the target of hacking and malicious calls believed to have originated in Russia.

Marine Corps cell phone

A Marine records a Drum and Bugle Corps performance at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in March 2014.U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Patrick J. McMahon

Russian electronic warfare, including jamming and other disruptions that affected US operations in Syria and elsewhere, became a greater concern for the US military, which in turn focused on improving its electronic warfare capabilities and limiting the exposure of its troops.

In 2018, the Pentagon banned the use of geolocation features on phones by personnel in “operational areas” after it was reported that soldiers using fitness trackers were revealing their locations and even the layout of their bases.

Securing communications and reducing e-signatures is especially important to the Marine Corps as it develops concepts to operate small, mobile units within reach of Chinese forces — and Chinese intelligence platforms — in the Western Pacific.

Marines have tested new technologies designed to provide more secure communication between their units and other forces, but the use of phones and other devices may still allow adversaries to track their movements in peacetime and strike in wartime.

During a training exercise in California in 2019, a Marine compromised his unit by taking a selfie that revealed their location. “They were like, ‘OK, you’re dead,'” a Marine general said at the time.

Radio aviator of the Air Force bomber B-1B Diego Garcia

A U.S. Air Force officer uses a land mobile radio as a B-1B bomber lands in Diego Garcia in October 2021.US Air Force / Staff Sergeant Hannah Malone

Collecting electronic signals “is absolutely becoming more and more ubiquitous,” Berger said this month.

Operating in such an environment means “e-signature management is huge,” Berger said, adding that the Corps is moving toward “pushing signals intelligence operations to much lower levels of strength” than some of us were used to.

The U.S. Air Force, which is developing its own concept of distributed operations in the Pacific, faces a similar challenge in managing electronic emissions, according to Chief Master Sgt. David Wolfe, senior enlisted airman in the U.S. Air Force in the Pacific.

“The Chinese in particular have a very solid intelligence network, so they’re trying to find out what we’re doing. We’re doing the same thing, so it’s a familiar game of cat and mouse,” Wolfe said in an interview at a summit of senior rank-and-file leaders in Washington in August.

“We’re trying to help our people understand that everything you say and do is monitored by everyone,” Wolfe told Insider. “I mean, my phone is in my pocket now. We could be being recorded right now and not know it.”

Read the original article in Business Insider

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