Several Russian soldiers’ mobile phones have reportedly been hacked after their secure encrypted phone system was destroyed during the ongoing “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Investigative journalism organization Bellingcat revealed that Russian troops have switched off their encrypted phone system and used normal phones with local sim cards during the invasion.
The Russian military had been using an encrypted communication system called “Era” to communicate with commanders and fellow soldiers to prevent eavesdropping.
However, since the 3G/4G towers needed for Era to operate have been destroyed, Ukrainian intelligence has intercepted phone calls, including one made by a Federal Security Service (FSB) field officer informing officials in Russia of the death of Major General Vitaly Gerasimov.
“The idiots tried to use the Era cryptophones in Kharkiv, after destroying many 3g cell towers and also replacing others with stingrays,” Bellingcat executive director Christo Grozev said in a social media post. “The Russian army is equipped with secure phones that can’t work in areas where the Russian army operates.”
The idiots tried to use the Era cryptophones in Kharkiv, after destroying many 3g cell towers and also replacing others with stingrays. Era needs 3g/4g to communicate.
The Russian army is equipped with secure phones that can't work in areas where the Russian army operates.
— Christo Grozev (@christogrozev) March 7, 2022
British intelligence company Shadowbreak also claims that it has intercepted Russian troop communications saying they deliberately punctured vehicle fuel tanks to avoid reaching the front line.
‘Exposed to Danger’
Independent specialist in defense and international affairs, Dr. James Bosbotinis, explained that Russia’s use of unencrypted communication systems “does not bode well” for the country’s command and control.
Since the use of insecure communication systems is discouraged, high-ranking commanders need to go to the frontline to resolve issues, exposing them to danger.
Bosbotinis states that Russian use of local sim cards during operations reflects the nation’s failure to utilize the “full spectrum” of its electronic warfare and cyber capabilities.
According to defense analyst James Rands, the Russians may still have access to other means of encrypting devices for secure communications.
“The Russians must have something… in their store cupboards and they will have electronic encryption,” he told inews.co.uk. “It looks like this just wasn’t distributed beforehand.”