Cell Phones in Combat Zones: How Faraday Gear Keeps You Safe and Silent

January 17, 2024 10 min read

Faraday Bag for Phones


Mobile phones have become indispensable in modern warfare, evolving far beyond mere communication devices. In today's combat zones, they're tools for coordination, intelligence gathering, and crucial decision-making. But this reliance brings new vulnerabilities, turning these devices into potential threats.

As technology advances, so do the risks. Mobile phones in combat environments are now susceptible to sophisticated cyber threats, making them a double-edged sword for military operations.

Using a smartphone in combat zones is the digital equivalent of lighting a cigarette at night, inadvertently signalling your position to the enemy. This article highlights the critical need for military personnel in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard to use communication devices securely. SLNT® Faraday gear is essential for maintaining operational security and personal safety, enabling soldiers to use cell phones without compromising their location or national security. Our exploration focuses on how this technology protects warfighters in uncontrolled environments and on the battlefield.

It's here that Faraday bags, designed to shield electronic devices from external signals, emerge as a vital defence mechanism.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The latest threats posed by mobile phones in combat zones.
  • How attack vectors have evolved with advancing technology.
  • The effectiveness of Faraday bags in countering these threats.

As we delve deeper into this topic, we’ll uncover the critical role Faraday bags play in safeguarding sensitive communications in the most precarious situations.

The Evolving Role of Mobile Phones in Combat Zones

The battlefield has transformed dramatically over the past few years, with mobile phones emerging as a central element in military operations. These devices, once mere communication tools, now serve as hubs of critical information and strategy in the heat of combat.

Since 2020, the way armed forces utilize mobile technology has seen a significant shift. Operations now heavily depend on the real-time data and communication capabilities provided by these devices. From tracking troop movements to accessing live satellite imagery, mobile phones have become integral to modern military strategy.

However, this evolution is not without its challenges. The increasing dependence on mobile technology in combat zones has introduced new vulnerabilities, making secure communication more complex and crucial than ever. The integration of advanced tech like 5G and IoT devices further complicates the security landscape, requiring innovative solutions to protect sensitive data.

As we explore this evolution, it becomes clear that safeguarding these communication lifelines is paramount for successful military operations.


The Battlefield in Our Pockets

The battlefield has extended into our pockets, with the proliferation of ubiquitous technical surveillance and overhead persistent surveillance capabilities.

Ubiquitous Technical Surveillance

Ubiquitous technical surveillance refers to the widespread and pervasive ability to monitor and track individuals' activities, movements, and communications using technology. This includes things like CCTV cameras, facial recognition systems, phone and internet monitoring programs, and other sensors that are embedded throughout our infrastructure and devices. These surveillance technologies are increasingly ubiquitous, meaning they are found everywhere around us as we go about our daily lives.

UTS includes advanced data analytics, employing algorithms to predict behavior based on accumulated data. It's not just about monitoring; it's about the ability to foresee activities and movements through the aggregation of vast amounts of data from diverse sources.

In military contexts, UTS means that soldiers’ activities could potentially be monitored and predicted, not only by visual surveillance but also through their digital interactions, communication patterns, and even financial transactions.

Overhead Persistent Surveillance

Overhead persistent surveillance is the use of aircrafts and drones equipped with cameras and sensors to provide sustained wide-area monitoring from high altitudes. This allows for tracking of vehicles and people over large city-sized areas for extended periods of time. The data collected from overhead persistent surveillance systems can then be used to analyze patterns of life, identify suspicious activities, and locate/track high value targets.

RF sensing drones not only track signals but can also intercept communications, providing intelligence on enemy movements and strategies. These drones can operate autonomously, using machine learning to identify targets based on signal patterns.

These technologies enable a form of pervasive surveillance that essentially turns cities and communities into open battlespaces. The use of RF sensing drones and weapons targeting systems takes this a step further by allowing weapons systems to lock onto and track cell phone signals and other digital emissions from devices. This concerning development means the very devices we carry around in our pockets could be used to monitor and target us.

Security Challenges Posed by Mobile Phones

Mobile phones, while providing numerous benefits, pose significant risks in warfare, particularly in terms of tracking and cybersecurity.

Cell phones pose a significant threat to Operational Security (OPSEC) in military settings.

OPSEC involves keeping sensitive information confidential, and the widespread connectivity options in cell phones, like cell radio, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS, and more, create RF signatures that can be exploited. These features, while facilitating communication and geo-positioning, can inadvertently disclose a soldier's location and mission details. The solution lies in blocking these signals, with Faraday gear being a highly effective method to ensure soldiers remain safe and undetected.

Tracking Capabilities

Mobile phones can be tracked in several ways, making them a potential liability on the battlefield. For instance, a nation at war can monitor cellular networks in the conflict zone to get a comprehensive view of mobile device activity. They can identify phones of interest, including those belonging to soldiers, and track these devices to their home addresses using publicly available information. Additionally, a country can access commercial databases of mobile app location data to identify phones likely belonging to soldiers. Such devices will ping regularly in the locations of known bases or other military facilities1

Another method of tracking involves the use of International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers, which can gather phone data to locate and identify devices. Location can be determined by triangulating signal strengths from nearby cell towers or by pinging a targeted device’s GPS

Even if soldiers are careful not to reveal their location explicitly, their mobile phones can still collect metadata that can be used to track them. For example, the phone may collect information about the cell towers it is connected to, or the GPS coordinates of the phone2

In a warfare context, these tracking capabilities can be exploited by adversaries. If a soldier's phone is compromised, it could reveal their location and movements to the enemy. This could potentially put not only the individual soldier at risk but also their entire unit or mission.

Eavesdropping and Interception

One of the most immediate threats is the vulnerability of mobile phones to eavesdropping and interception. Hostile entities equipped with sophisticated signal interception technologies can potentially listen to voice communications or intercept messages. This form of intelligence-gathering can have dire consequences, especially if operational details, such as troop movements or tactical plans, are disclosed. For example, in various conflicts, including the ongoing situation in Ukraine, there have been reports of adversaries tapping into phone communications to gain a tactical edge on the battlefield.

Exploitation of Social Media and Metadata

The use of mobile phones also extends to social media, which poses its own set of risks. Operations security can be compromised by seemingly innocuous information shared online. Metadata embedded in shared images can reveal the location of military assets or activities. A documented instance of this was the inadvertent exposure of a secret military base's location through the fitness tracking data of soldiers, which was uploaded to a public platform.


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Check out Kaj Larsen's demonstration and how to prevent signal off-gassing with SLNT® products:Find Faraday Gear for Your Military Needs

Mobile Device Threats: Recent Incidents in Modern Warfare

In the high-stakes environment of modern warfare, the use of mobile devices by military personnel can create significant security vulnerabilities. Here are some real-world incidents that highlight these risks:

Tracking via Consumer Electronics

During the conflict in Ukraine, a Russian soldier's theft of Apple AirPods led to his tracking across 600 miles, illustrating the risks associated with consumer electronics in conflict zones. The AirPods, tracked via Apple's "Find My" feature, revealed his movements from Ukraine to Russia. The incident underscores the ease with which personal devices can be tracked, posing a significant risk to operational security.3

Fitness Apps Exposing Military Secrets

The Strava Heatmap Incident in 2018 showed how fitness apps could inadvertently compromise security. Strava's global heatmap, created using data from smartphones and devices like Fitbits, revealed the locations of military bases and patrol routes. This incident demonstrates how seemingly harmless apps can unintentionally expose sensitive military information.

Mobile phones can also be a source of sensitive information if they are captured by the enemy. This data could include sensitive information about troop movements, supply lines, and other military operations4

Taliban Tracking NATO Soldiers via Mobile Devices

In Afghanistan, reports surfaced of the Taliban using commercially available spyware to track NATO soldiers' movements by exploiting their mobile devices. This intelligence reportedly led to targeted attacks and increased risk for soldiers operating in the region. The incident also revealed the ability of adversaries to use low-cost, readily available technology against technologically advanced militaries.

In modern combat scenarios, the strategic manipulation of mobile networks has become a critical factor. Notably, the Taliban have implemented a tactic of shutting down mobile phone networks during nighttime, aiming to prevent their communications from being tracked. This approach results in widespread communication blackouts, with the Taliban justifying these shutdowns by claiming that mobile phones are exploited by their enemies for tracking purposes. This strategy underscores the complex role of mobile technology in warfare, where it's not only used for communication and coordination but also as a tool for counterintelligence and security measures.

Stingrays: Advanced Military Surveillance

Military forces use "stingrays" to mimic cellphone towers, collecting data from nearby devices. These tools can track the historical and real-time locations of phones, intercept communications, and decrypt certain types of mobile communication. This sophisticated surveillance technology highlights the vulnerability of personal mobile devices in combat situations.

Faraday Bags: A Solution to Mitigate Risks

In response to the escalating cyber threats in combat zones, Faraday bags have emerged as a crucial line of defense. These specialized bags, named after the famous scientist Michael Faraday, are designed to block all electromagnetic fields. By doing so, they effectively shield electronic devices from external hacking attempts and electronic eavesdropping.

The principle behind Faraday bags is simple yet highly effective. They are constructed using materials that create a shield around the device, blocking any incoming or outgoing signals. This means that when a mobile phone or device is placed inside a Faraday bag, it becomes invisible and inaccessible to any external network, making it immune to remote hacking attempts, GPS tracking, and other forms of electronic surveillance.

Their effectiveness in combat scenarios is particularly noteworthy. By preventing unauthorized access to electronic devices, Faraday bags ensure that sensitive information, such as location data and strategic communications, remains secure. This is especially vital in environments where electronic warfare tactics are increasingly common and sophisticated.

Incorporating Faraday bags into military operations not only enhances the security of communication devices but also provides a psychological edge, knowing that crucial equipment is protected against some of the most advanced cyber threats.

SLNT®: Fortifying Military Operations with Advanced Faraday Protection

SLNT® is committed to defending against advanced persistent threats (APTs) that target devices like personal phones and laptops. Their products ensure military personnel maintain radio silence, providing essential mobile technology while securing their positions. Designed for soldier-specific challenges, SLNT® offerings are water-resistant, durable, and compatible with standard gear, including Berry and TAA Compliant options effectively block all wireless signals and outperform basic RFID-blocking solutions, ensuring complete signal containment.

SLNT® provides the US Government and military with cutting-edge Faraday bags, crucial for EMP protection and communications security (COMSEC). These bags shield electronic devices from electromagnetic interference and prevent unauthorized signal interception, ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of military communications. Designed to withstand the rigours of military use, SLNT®'s durable and water-resistant bags are essential for maintaining operational security in modern warfare.

Benefits in a Warfare Context

The benefits of using Faraday bags in combat scenarios are multifold:

Prevention of Geolocation Tracking: With GPS signals blocked, the risk of geolocation tracking is significantly reduced. This is crucial in operational security to prevent enemy forces from detecting the movements of troops.

Shielding Against Signal Interception: Faraday bags protect against attempts to intercept incoming and outgoing signals from a mobile device, thereby safeguarding sensitive communications.

Protection from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attacks: A Faraday bag can protect electronic devices from an EMP, which could otherwise render the device useless, potentially paralyzing military operations that rely on electronic communication.

Cyber Attack Mitigation: The isolation provided by Faraday bags means that the device is cut off from any network, preventing it from being compromised or used to infiltrate military networks.

Operational Discipline: The enforced inaccessibility of a phone placed in a Faraday bag ensures that operational protocols regarding communication are strictly adhered to, by making it impossible for troops to accidentally or intentionally violate security policies during sensitive operations.

Future Outlook and Emerging Technologies

As we look towards the future, the challenges in mobile security within combat zones are likely to evolve further. The ongoing development of new technologies means that both threats and countermeasures will continue to advance. Faraday bags, while effective now, may need to adapt to counter more sophisticated forms of electronic warfare and cyber threats.

The military's interest in developing EMP weapons, as seen with projects like CHAMP and HiJENKS the successor to CHAMP the Counter-electronics High-Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), also indicates a growing focus on electronic warfare capabilities. This trend underscores the importance of continuous innovation and adaptation in the field of mobile security. As we progress into 2024 and beyond, it will be crucial for military forces to stay ahead of the curve, ensuring that their communication tools are not only efficient but also secure from the ever-evolving array of threats.


In conclusion, while mobile phones can provide valuable communication and information tools in warfare, they also pose significant risks in terms of tracking and cybersecurity. Therefore, militaries must implement robust security measures and protocols to mitigate these risks.

The cybersecurity landscape in combat zones presents increasingly complex challenges. Mobile devices, integral to military operations, have become prime targets for sophisticated cyber-attacks. These new threats exploit advanced technologies, leaving traditional security measures inadequate.

The advent of 5G networks in combat environments has revolutionized communication speed and capacity. Yet, it also opens doors to new vulnerabilities. Cyber adversaries now can intercept data at unprecedented rates, making real-time intelligence gathering a risky endeavour. The integration of the Internet of Things (IoT) further escalates these risks, as more connected devices mean more potential points of attack.

Emerging threats include advanced persistent threats (APTs), which can linger undetected within networks for extended periods, and zero-day exploits, targeting previously unknown vulnerabilities in software used by military personnel. These sophisticated attacks require equally sophisticated countermeasures to ensure the security and integrity of critical military communications.

Understanding these evolving threats is crucial for military strategists and cybersecurity experts, as they work to fortify defences and protect the integrity of operations in these high-stakes environments.