Insurgents Used Cell Phone Geotags to Destroy AH-64s in Iraq

Here’s a battlefield safety issue that some people have been warning about –and others have been ignoring —  for a while now; an enemy using social media and cellphone geotagging to identify the precise location of troops on a battlefield.

When you take a photo with your cellphone, the gps coordinates of the location you took the picture is embedded into the image. When you upload said photo onto the internet for all to see, people can pull the location data from that picture. If you think this is just people being paranoid and that the Taliban would never do this in Afghanistan, think again. Insurgents figured out how to use this to their advantage in Iraq years ago. In 2007, a group of Iraqi insurgents used geotags to destroy several American AH-64 Apache choppers sitting on a flightline in Iraq.

From an Army press release warning of the dangers of geotags:

When a new fleet of helicopters arrived with an aviation unit at a base in Iraq, some Soldiers took pictures on the flightline, he said. From the photos that were uploaded to the Internet, the enemy was able to determine the exact location of the helicopters inside the compound and conduct a mortar attack, destroying four of the AH-64 Apaches.

During Israel’s 2006 war in southern Lebanon with Iranian-backed militia (more like a full on army) Hezbollah, Iranian SIGINT professionals tracked signals coming from personal cell phones of Israeli soldiers to identify “assembly points of Israeli troops that may have telegraphed the points of offensive thrusts into Lebanon.

This is just one more example of low-end cyber warfare that can be as deadly as expensive software worms designed to infiltrate an enemy’s most heavily defended networks.



22 Comments on "Insurgents Used Cell Phone Geotags to Destroy AH-64s in Iraq"

  1. Seriously?
    1) Who doesn't know about this technology?
    2) Why aren't soldier specifically told about this
    – and not to take pictures of critical elements

    Don't people remember, "Loose lips sink ships".
    Troops responsible for this should be brought up on charges.
    Ignorance is not an excuse, especially during war.

  2. I guess the simple solution is don’t carry cell phones or snap pictures in a warzone. Good luck enforcing that though.

    If you do take pictures, use something without a GPS embed.

  3. I'm surprised they'd do it.

    I doubt soldiers would knowingly put themselves and their fellow soldiers at risk if they knew what they were doing had tactical consequences: rather, I'm willing to assume it is because we naively assume our enemies aren't on flickr or aren't adept with mining social media for intelligence. Our enemies do use the internet mostly for communication in as clandestine a means as possible, putting them on the defensive. But it doesn't mean they won't use it "offensively" to collect information.

    Lesson learned. It happens. We'll all move on.

  4. notasblindasyou | March 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm |

    blah blah……

    Using the same technology currently being placed on our military vehicles and in certain cities to locate the source of a shooting by triangulating sound wave arrival times could easily be used to figure out where ANY of our loud vehicles are ultimately parked.

    Simple math and 3 microphones……….

  5. mpower6428 | March 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm |

    isnt the NSA suppossed to be making that sort of stuff usefull TOO US…?!

  6. A.Physicist | March 15, 2012 at 2:37 pm |

    The Army Times story smells funny. I think this falls into the category of "wash your razor with cold water to make the blade sharper and longer lasting" fib which was spread around in Vietnam, and really just encouraged soldiers to minimize hot water use. Geotagged photos give you no information about the flight line that wasn't available from publicly available satellite imagery, unless AQAP has a 'rapid facebook feed response team'. I doubt that a few extra meters of precision makes much of a difference to an unguided rocket or hillbilly mortar.

  7. Five years ago, not a lot of people worried about the geotagging feature on their phones. Or even knew about it. Today, every troop knows to turn it off.

  8. This gives new meaning to "loose lips sink ships".

  9. Hate to say but end some of these social media and geo trackers they are a security risk and for time being shut them down.

  10. We are fighting evil. Osama Bin Laden was evil, the former leader of north korea was evil, Terrorists are evil, Taliban is evil, Hitler was evil, the leader of Iran is evil, Saddam
    was evil, Stalin was evil ,MAO (CHINA) was evil.

  11. wouldn't this provide a useful IP path back to whoever queried the geotags ??
    IP address's provide location just as much as GPS !!

  12. 71st Regiment | March 16, 2012 at 1:57 am |

    All good comments. History has shown, never underestimate your enemy. As all the past invaders into Afghanistan have found out, the local tribes are serious warriors and from Alexander to the present, they are extremely adapt at fighting each new enemy.
    The terrain and time are on there side. They may to us look odd in their clothes and their habits, but in the past they where able to build almost perfect copies ot the British Enfield Rifle, so to with today's modern technology, they can get any type of cell phone, smart phones and all the rest and find ways to use them against us. What they have and what our troops have where probaly made in the same factory in the Peoples Republic of China. Our side needs to put our technology into a stealth mode.

  13. Okay!!!! I never knew about this thing. Thanks

  14. You know for a generation that is supposed to be so computer savvy because they were raised with computers, we time and time again see just how dumb they really are. Geo-tagging has been known about for several years and they're still uploading pictures with this onto the internet. There should be no surprise that geo-tagging exists, just surprise at how foolish some of our folks can be.

  15. The soldier who posted the photo should be peeling potatoes in Greenland.

    I hope the military actually learns from this- I'm more worried about our satellites being hacked –

    Of course- if history tells us anything- they will be SHOCKED if that happens.

  16. They can turn it off

  17. Wait til they figure out they can do that to our PCs? Over and Out.

  18. This reminds me of Murphy"s Law: If the enemy is in range, SO ARE YOU!

  19. Next news Airforce tagged with QR codes, new mortars read them.

  20. All batteries operated aparatus should be a void in or near a war zone or borders!!Or when batt. are empty deliver them in at central post!Knowing the enemie can make use of the chemicals as batt.keep a eye on it like youre weapon..

  21. Thunder350 | March 18, 2012 at 5:01 pm |

    Turning the Geo-Tag option off in the camera settings is too hard apparently… Takes two steps..

    In the camera just hit "settings" and uncheck "Geo-tag photos" problem solved.

  22. Tecnology is not for all . Like in plague control , people say , I can't accept this regulation, thah is not important , don't care about , nothing will happing , then , they sick . It's the same with iphones since has gps technology . This apliances will be prohibited in all militar forces in the world . And the bad wars too.

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