A map of Ukraine has been circulating on the Internet these days, which is said to show where Russian soldiers with their country’s SIM cards are registered in the Ukrainian mobile network. Where the troop concentration is particularly high, the map glows yellow to red. If indeed this map is real, it would give the Ukrainian military a clear tactical advantage – and literally serve them Putin’s troops “on a silver platter”, at least in terms of their location. Because that way, the Ukrainians could see exactly where Russia is assembling units to prepare attacks and thus prepare their defense in a targeted and efficient manner.
Where the map came from, when it was created and whether it was ever representative is questionable. Because of this, and due to some inconsistencies in content, it is currently the subject of wild speculation on Twitter. For example, the red and yellow areas do not correspond to the current combat zones – a possible explanation for this is that the map may have represented the situation in March, as the original post on Twitter also states.
It is well known that smartphone tracking not only plays an important role in the case of lost devices or missing persons – therefore, certain precautions were taken on both the Ukrainian and Russian sides right at the beginning of the war to protect soldiers and to cover up their positions . However, the turmoil of the war, in which people are murdered, plundered and stolen, does not allow a clear distinction between Russian and Ukrainian signals – if only because it is known that Ukrainian providers have their networks for Russian and Belarusian SIM cards right after the start blocked the invasion.
That’s not the only reason why many Russian soldiers took their smartphones from Ukrainians and forced them to hand over their device and SIM PINs. Although these devices can then also be located – and also makes it easier for the Ukrainians to eavesdrop on the opponent – it would also indicate that the Twitter map does not reflect the current reality.
Nevertheless, cell phone tracking (for which there are several options) is extremely relevant to the military. That is why there were and are instructions for their soldiers in both the Ukrainian army and the Russian army. Among other things, Ukrainian soldiers should not use their own SIM card, but buy a new one locally. When making phone calls, they should move far away from the troops and, if possible, go to towns with many civilians. Otherwise, you should always leave your phone switched off.
According to “Sky News”, however, it is still possible that attackers could use drone access to hack a smartphone in such a way that it appears to be switched off, but is in fact like a beacon on the battlefield. Removing the battery is one solution, but this is practically impossible with current smartphones.
Russia is said to have already lost one of its generals due to mobile phone tracking. To prevent further losses from the use of smartphones, President Putin signed a decree on May 6th. According to Radio Free Europe, it states that military personnel should not own devices that can determine locations and transmit audio and photo material. Violation of the rule is considered a gross disciplinary offence.