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Throughout the past few years soldiers around the world have been carrying commercial smartphones with them in the field. Although most militaries would not allow soldiers to bring their personal smartphones into combat areas, some militaries have been supplying their soldiers with smartphones that have certain applications installed that are intended to help the combat soldier on the battlefield.
Warfighters have adopted smartphones for assisting in tasks such as communication, location sharing, field maintenance, and even calling in airstrikes. By providing soldiers with real-time information sharing, smartphones drastically improve the warfighters situational awareness. They also get rid of the soldiers need to carry certain items such as maps, trackers, and radios since a multi-purpose smartphone is all that in one.
Aside from being small and easy to use there are a number of sensors that come with smartphones that are incredibly useful for the warfighter. One such sensor is the GPS tracker. Soldiers with smartphones can track the location of friendly forces at any level just by opening an app on their phones, thus improving the soldier’s situational awareness. Traditional methods of doing this are rarely at the individual’s level and not nearly as accurate as smartphone GPS.
Another benefit of smartphones in the field is the ability to grant soldiers access to encrypted communications. By using encrypted voice apps soldiers can communicate between each other about sensitive information, making it harder for the enemy to intercept the message while allowing more soldiers the access to communicate more freely.
Smartphones are also great for saving time with logins and authentication. Sometimes in the field when a soldier needs to login to a certain network system, logging in can be a time wasting hassle. Smartphones can track certain factors such as the user’s walking patterns, GPS location, and Wi-Fi network to be able to grant the soldier multi-factor authentication to login to systems in the military.
Although smartphones are a great tool for the warfighter, there are still risks of trusting smartphone sensors. Smartphones are still vulnerable to being hacked and hijacked remotely, revealing critical soldier intel to enemy forces. Defensesystems.com lists several risks involving the use of commercial smartphones in military applications.
One major risk is that the enemy may be able to hack into the soldier’s GPS chip to determine his current location, making him and his squad an easy target to attack. Smartphones also have microphones. Enemy forces could intercept conversations happening by the phone and voice messages that are recorded by the phone but not yet encrypted.
The phone’s motion sensors could also be hacked so that the soldier’s identity could be spoofed in order to gain login access to critical network systems.
Even though commercial smartphones should never be fully trusted in military applications, they are still too useful to go ignored. Military officials all over have begun looking into increasing smartphone security so that soldiers can only benefit from combat smartphone use and not the opposite.