Another Example of Cell Phone Metadata Forensic Surveillance

Matthew Cole explains how the Italian police figured out how the CIA kidnapped Abu Omar in Milan. Interesting use of cell phone metadata, showing how valuable it is for intelligence purposes.

See also this example.

Posted on May 6, 2015 at 5:12 PM • 48 Comments

Comments

stineMay 6, 2015 6:52 PM

Surely the latest 11th circuit court of appeals should have seen this presentation before they made their decision. Along with the decisions last year regarding GPS trackers and cameras on telephone poles, this should have convinced them that metadata is actually data.

rgaffMay 6, 2015 9:26 PM

Wait, let me get this straight. The NSA purposefully keeps cell phone security weak so that they can spy on everyone... Then... as a result... a foreign government uses said weaknesses to spy on a top secret CIA operation happening on their soil, investigate, and bring charges against them for illegal activities???

In short, the NSA blows the CIA's operation by their antics making everything weak for all. And the CIA isn't asking for heads to roll why?

Then Hezbollah pwns Mossad and the Americans using the same weaknesses, rounding up all their spies based on their cell phone metadata? Didn't I see a slide that said "CIA does nothing"... what the heck. They're all ok with this?

Serious ostriches man!

Maxwell Smart, N-2 Torture Task ForceMay 6, 2015 10:33 PM

rgaff, to be fair, this is one thing we can't pin on NSA. The CIA morons didn't know to take the batteries out of their cellphones. Robert Lady deserves to lose his opulent Hannibal Lecter villa and get ignominiously locked up in Panama because he's a shit-for-brains.

FigureitoutMay 6, 2015 10:42 PM

JohnP
OpSec is hard.
--Yep, it's a full-time job, so it's mostly infeasible b/c people can't devote that time (I don't want to, I equate it to somewhat mindless busywork that you have to repeat and repeat and repeat every time or the chain breaks, then you have to withdraw and wait or just move a ton to establish yourself again, if a hook's got you though, have to get even more crazy, more complete purge) and even then you aren't doing it right if you're not prepared for failure. It's a bit of a "pseudoscience" too, w/ lots of anecdotal bullsh*t and too much minute things to say everything. Bleh, annoying.

rgaff
let me get this straight.
--Yeah, this is something that "does not compute" in brainwashed minds. That they're children and spouses have to use compromised electronics (you don't know if your house is under surveillance, if your wife/husband is a actually a spy, and if your children/wife/husband will spill the beans if you supply them w/ secure electronics; so you put them in harm's way to protect probably something that may be open source anyway...). And anything you do, all the electronics everywhere are insecure and hackable, can't even go out to dinner and swipe your card w/o checking your statement that night and next day; let alone drive your car w/ wifi/bluetooth radio chips that have probably ~5 separate radios, and connections to chips that now control your transmission, brakes, steering, gas pedal, etc...

It comes back and bites you in the ass, but they "have their face down, ass up...".

rgaffMay 6, 2015 11:09 PM

@Maxwell Smart

No.. pull your head out of the sand. The NSA is supposed to be the National Security Agency, not the National Insecurity Agency. They're supposed to be making things more secure, not more insecure.... yet they are PURPOSEFULLY MAKING our electronics more insecure... just so they can spy on everyone and everything better. I can't pin the CIA's stupidity on them, sure, but I most assuredly can pin the insecurity in everything around us that they purposefully make worse instead of better! And that makes it that much harder for the CIA to do it right, as evidenced here! Everyone's bitten by this. And the NSA is making it worse. They're corrupting open standards bodies for God's sake! And paying off security companies! What's the matter with them!

Clive RobinsonMay 7, 2015 12:23 AM

@ rgaff,

Wait, let me get this straight. The NSA purposefully keeps cell phone security weak so that they can spy on everyone...

Historical note it was not the NSA or even GCHQ that started the "technical surveillance measures" on phones. It was actually the UK's mainland security service you might know as MI5 through their "secret squirrels" in what was back then the General Post Office (GPO) at their research center initially at Dollis Hill north London and later Martlsham Heath Essex.

The GPO was later split into two organisations the Royal Mail (post parcels and related retail and financial) and British Telecommunications now simply called BT who were not so long ago Bruces' employer.

The reason that it was MI5 / GPO that had the push on this was to do with WWII and the cold war. Many Russian and other Eastern Europeans ended up in the UK during WWII, however the raving lunatic Stalin had a policy of executing them when they returned to Russia / Eastern Europe, so many stayed in the UK. Whilst few if any were initialy spies, it did not take long for some with families back home to get turned or for others to be "replaced" by spies.

Back in the late 40's and well into the 60's most IC agencies had no technical ability above that already developed by the likes of the Mafia, such as harmonic / infinity bugs, that only worked on analogue POTS lines.

Due to the work of Tommy Flowers and one or two others on valve / tube electronics it became clear that the future of the telephone system was going to be digital. In the 1960's the work of the likes of Ken Gravit gave rise to what became known as System X.

The likes of Tony Sale over at MI5 who had close liason with those who were responsible for System X design realised that MI5's well established POTS technical surveillance measures would be lost in the digital system unless the "fix went in quick".

Back then the GPO were seen as "world class" and thus pretty much got their way when setting standards, this enabled MI5 to get the fix in under the cover of "emergency safety" requirments.

These "safety requirmnts" as a consiquence ended up in all international and as far as I'm aware all national standards for digital phone services and have just been carried forwards into the mobile phone specifications today and are unlikely to ever be removed. Because they are just to dam usefull not just for surveillance but engineering and safety.

The US's claim to fame on the "safety" front was requiring GPS to be put in all mobiles for "911" calls. They knew that any mobile phone manufacturer in the far east would just put GPS in all phone cores to keep inventory costs down, which is why you think you can turn GPS off in your phone but the network operator can turn it back on again with just the push of a button.

So if you want to blaim anybody, blaim MI5 and Peter Wright and his assistant Tony Sale. But remember "they did it because of the Russian's" amongst other countries spies operating in the UK.

Andrew WallaceMay 7, 2015 12:29 AM

"rgaff • May 6, 2015 9:26 PM

Wait, let me get this straight. The NSA purposefully keeps cell phone security weak so that they can spy on everyone"

Have you been living under a rock? That is part of what is done as standard in the intelligence community.

Andrew

rgaffMay 7, 2015 1:28 AM

"That is part of what is done as standard in the intelligence community."

In other words 1984 is standard practice.

tyrMay 7, 2015 2:07 AM


The military of USA also had a hand in with
the Autovon switch system built in collaboration
with the phone companies. Same basic reasoning
it gave them control of the telephone systems
during a nuclear war. Then the tech grew like
topsy without much oversight as to where it was
all going to end up.

First you get internet, then web, then comps move
into phones and the spooks are kept scrambling to
stay on top of it all. At some point they decide to
meddle instead of doing their homework. That creates
the current mess. The ingrown paranoid mindset isn't
much good for anything it touches and being able
to hide your most egregious errors make them hard
to fix.

They are about as rational as a Victorian who sights
a naked ankle. This leads to the current replay of
the movie Brasil as live action roleplay.

Worse is the consequences when some group with a nasty
agenda gets in control of all this marvelous dataset
and metadata. All those olde tyme animosities haven't
disappeared dispite all the modern useless cant about
how outmoded they have become.

rgaffMay 7, 2015 2:20 AM

@keiner

I'm well aware it's reality. I'm mainly flabbergasted that everyone accepts it as normal.

Here, sit in your prison, these bars are normal. Nothing you can do about it, just accept it. Go on with life.

rgaffMay 7, 2015 2:23 AM

It is not security when everything you every say or do is watched and you could be thrown in prison at any instant for stepping the least bit out of line. That's insecurity. At the hand of the worst tyrant.

keinerMay 7, 2015 4:31 AM

@rgaff

There is nothing better than happy slaves!

Make them use their i-diot devices and think that "free trade" is good for them...

Last REALLY free trade was selling slaves from Africa to free US farmers, largely by UK criminals. This this the form of "free trade" these neocons dream of. NSA and CIA, Google and the rest are simply the new army needed to get their business up and running everywhere in the world.

keinerMay 7, 2015 5:16 AM

Anyone here looking for new friends:

GOOGLE for

site:linkedin.com/pub xkeyscore SIGINT

...here we go!

65535May 7, 2015 5:29 AM

I think this piece shows or is meant to show exactly how revealing “metadata” is and how it has become a double edged sword - even in the Intelligence Community.

Now, that this metadata including, the SIM chip, handset numbers, cell tower dumps and the ability to associate them in patterns not foreseen is a real Fourth Amendment problem and security problem.

If this metadata can be used by IC agencies it can be used by criminal enterprises like Hezbollah to “roll-up” US intelligence agents in the field [as discussed in the [YouTube clip].

If Hezbollah can “roll-up” US Agents in the field than think what Russia, China, South American countries unfriendly to Americans, unruly US law enforcement agents and criminal enterprises can do. It makes one gasp.

One could envision how rouge law enforcement agents in the DEA could easily tilt a case by tapping a lawyer’s phone calls. The DEA could even invent a case in some circumstances.

Politician and Judges could be blackmailed. Unfriendly, countries could be in on this blackmail stuff and gain access to very high level secrets and on and on.

On the legal side this so called "metadata" including GPS data could be used in divorce, criminal, and civil cases to varying degrees for nefarious purposes. Metadata is now out of the bottle and will be hard - if not impossible to put back in.

The entire “metadata” game will end badly unless it is stopped.


Z.LozinskiMay 7, 2015 5:41 AM

@Clive,
I believe the requirements for interception in the telephone network in the UK pre-date WWII and the Cold War. You are right though, in that there was a massive shift in how things were done with the widespread introduction of electronics and later stored program control in the Cold War period.

There is a clear description of interception and the circuits required to do this in the two volumes from the 1930s describing the British Post Office system. These volumes were the course material for the City and Guilds exams for staff working in the Post Office. (I don't have the 1923 edition so I can't check that).

Telephony: A Detailed Exposition of the Telephone System of the British Post Office. 2nd Edition. Herbert and Proctor. Vol I (1932), Vol II (1937).

The relevant sections are:

Interception Circuits, p 613 of Telephony Volume I (1932)

"When it is necessary to observe the service given to a subscriber [..]
apparatus is inserted in the line at the M.D.F. whereby calls to or from the subscriber, or in both directions, are intercepted at the monitor's desk. [..]
The monitor's desk is in the right foreground of the illustration forming the frontspiece."

Centralized Service Observation Equipment, pp453-463 of Telephony Volume II (1937)

Comprehensive description of the equipment at the Observed Exchange, the Observation Center and the Observation Position (which includes a rather nice number display circuit - who said calling line id was new?)

Tommy Flowers carefully doesn't say anything in his book, other than one throwaway comment: "the arrangements adopted are for agreement between the administration and the system designer."

rgaffMay 7, 2015 5:47 AM

The whole metadata game can't be stopped until people finally "get it" that metadata is data. The word "metadata" simply means "data about data" and it's way more revealing than original data usually, as this clip makes obvious. Therefore if metadata about phone calls is more revealing about your private life than the actual voice content of the phone call, then everyone should care MORE about the privacy of their phone call metadata than the voice content, not less.

And the people who invented the ridiculous word game lies in the news KNOW ALL THIS... they are all purposefully trying to mislead everyone. That's what makes me the maddest. Ignorance is one thing, purposeful deception is another.

Andrew WallaceMay 7, 2015 5:49 AM

65535

Snowden helped push this stuff into the mainstream infront of lawyers faces to make it more likely for spycraft to become a problem outwidth of IC.

Andrew

Rufo Guerreschi May 7, 2015 7:12 AM

to rgaff i would say that all large state governments are trting to stockpile as many vulnerabilities as they can. And they should as everyone else is doing it,and there is no stopping as it would be extremely difficult to ensure compliance to a nkn-proliferation treaty in a global supply-chain.
Only splution is to build really secure lifecycles and supplychain for ultra-minimal devices that can resist all such remote attacks. And try to give find a way to give state access with due process, and adequately extreme safeguards, so they do not make it illegal.

Andrew WallaceMay 7, 2015 7:34 AM

I don't believe Snowden has been a benefit to society.

He has educated the bad guys on how to turn against our intelligence services.

Techniques that were near exclusive to specialised industries are now known to every tom, dick and harry.

65535's point is very valid in relation to this.

Andrew

K.S.May 7, 2015 9:03 AM

@Andrew Wallace "techniques that were near exclusive"

No such thing. History shows that most human invention is done in parallel. Focused effort will buy you only a short while before someone accidentally discovers the same thing.

If Snowden revealed a design doc for a functional quantum computer powered by miniature blackhole generator, and now everyone can build one out of household supplies, then maybe you would have a point.

schmidtMay 7, 2015 11:56 AM

@ Andrew Wallace

Of the few slides I read, most of what Snowden revealed were Common Sense reachable by deductive logic. There were program names missing content.

It's like Snowden gave society the metadata but not the data.

schmidtMay 7, 2015 11:59 AM

@ Andrew Wallance

For the record, I don't believe whistle blowing is benevolence to society. The revealing of secrets cannot be an arbitrary act of an individual or a panel of journalists.

schmidtMay 7, 2015 12:00 PM

@ Andrew Wallace

pardon me for spelling your name wrong in previous post.

Icy HotMay 7, 2015 12:46 PM

"[Snowden] has educated the bad guys on how to turn against our intelligence services.

Techniques that were near exclusive to specialised industries are now known to every tom, dick and harry."

You are wholly wrong about Snowden.

Problems don't cease to exist just because someone hides them away. It is inevitable that the weakening of security by the NSA et al. will be used against those that the NSA et al. purportedly protects and against the NSA et al. itself. Fortunately, Snowden has called public and media attention to the problem. We can only hope that public outcry will force the change that the government actors have no interest in effecting otherwise.

WaelMay 7, 2015 2:07 PM

@keiner,

Practice your german or french a little, it might be worth it:

I get this:

Es tut uns leid. Dieses Video ist in ihrem Land nicht verfugbar

This video is not available in your country (USA.) -- Why is that?

rgaffMay 7, 2015 2:39 PM

@ Rufo Guerreschi
"Only splution is to build really secure lifecycles and supplychain for ultra-minimal devices that can resist all such remote attacks."

I agree here completely. The problem is, my own government, who is supposedly supposed to be protecting me against such attacks, is instead sabotaging industry efforts to do the very solution you just mentioned. My own government (NSA, GCHQ, GPO, whatever) is actively going out of their way trying to make everything around me less secure.

"And try to give find a way to give state access with due process, and adequately extreme safeguards, so they do not make it illegal."

This I don't understand. Should all people of earth be required to carry around a government-issued listening device any time they have a face-to-face private conversation with any friend in the park or in the woods, so our overseers can listen in and make sure nobody can ever do anything nefarious? If not, then why are people saying this should be required for all electronic communication? Do electrons somehow make it so much more suspicious or what? It's ridiculous and retarded. The medium (literal sound in air, vs wires and radio frequencies) should not change its legal status like that.

Marcos El MaloMay 7, 2015 6:51 PM

@Andrew Wallace

"I'm on a basic £30 phone with minimum features. iPhone can kiss my butt"

Analingus is one of the ways an iPhone becomes bent.

Milo M.May 7, 2015 7:07 PM

@Clive Robinson,May 7, 2015 12:23 AM

The FCC E911 mandate never required GPS as the solution.

Instead, it requires certain accuracy levels for certain fractions of a telecom provider's customers by certain dates.

Still that way.

The mandate does require location, though, whether by base station triangulation, TDOA, GPS, whatever.

ThomasMay 8, 2015 12:03 AM

@rgaff said, " Should all people of earth be required to carry around a government-issued listening device any time they have a face-to-face private conversation with any friend in the park or in the woods, so our overseers can listen in and make sure nobody can ever do anything nefarious?"

Wouldn't you like to be found when stranded in the woods? Many folks around my neck of woods carry GPS enabled devices for safety reasons. You are also privy to a dragnet of security camera that was designed specifically to recognize.


@Andrew Wallace said, "I'm on a basic £30 phone with minimum features. iPhone can kiss my butt"

What problem does it solve? Your phone still needs a carrier, or hotspot, for transit where the other brother lay await.

rgaffMay 8, 2015 12:16 AM

@ Thomas

Unfortunately, I suspect more people than we would like are starting to really think that way, not just as a joke or troll. That's what's really scary to me.

keinerMay 8, 2015 2:12 AM

@wael

Due to the content mafia...

But your a hacker, no problem to spoof a german or french IP, I guess? ;-)

Clive RobinsonMay 8, 2015 3:41 AM

@ Thomas,

Wouldn't you like to be found when stranded in the woods?

Ever hear of the Darwin Awards?

Way way to many people are becoming unselfreliant because they think that technology will save their neck when their poor preparation and planning gets them into trouble.

The result is they not only push way way beyond their own envelope, they put many others at considerable risk and expense to save their fairly worthless narcissistic hides.

Then they just go on and breed more worthless narcissists in their image making the problem worse, for those who chose to be self reliant and unselfish.

But what many forget is all those electronic gizmos like iPhones and iWatches have a major failing, their batteries don't last a day in poor signal coverage areas, so they can not be relied upon in an emergency.

But GPS systems have another problem, they have large amounts of software with the usuall consmer software defect rate, and as we know from news reports unself reeliant people follow them blindly. So we see amusing stories of people driving cars into rivers and other places they can not get out of...

It's safe to assume that such news stories only represent a tiny tiny fraction of GPS errors, which begs the question "Knowing that such systems are realy quite unreliable would you be stupid enough to trust your life on them?"

I don't and won't, even when I'm out sailing far out of sight of land, I relie on firstly keeping a running log of direction and speed, irespective of if I'm at sea or on land closely followed by keeping an eye with respect to the sun / stars and the time of day, then prevailing weather conditions and where possible the terrain I'm traveling in/over and keeping a close comparison to the maps/charts for that area. Likewise geting fixes by star sights, navigation marks and various Radio Direction Finding aids give extra surety to the ready reckoning. Finally getting a confirmation via GPS is nice, but so far it's never been a necessity for me, just a nicety, and that's the way I want to keep it.

A recent oped piece in the UK had found that by far the majority of teenagers could not use maps in their various forms, they could not identify features on the maps although there was a key, they could not align the map with their known position and could not use a compass to align the map with even an approximation of north let alone true north, and could not give grid refrences. As for the niceties of using contour lines to visualise their suroundings not a chance. Likewise they could not grasp the simple idea of finding south by just knowing the time and seeing the sun. My parents had made sure I could do this by the time I was nine, and would trust me to lead on country walks in new places, likewise so did the local scout leaders in trips away to hills, fells and mountains. The sad thing is although it's a relativly simple skill that improves with moderate practice many see it as being some kind of magic...

WaelMay 8, 2015 4:44 AM

@keiner,

But your a hacker, no problem to spoof a german or french ...

Oh, why didn't I think of that?

rgaffMay 8, 2015 2:32 PM

@ Clive Robinson

I love your rants, they make me happy. Electronic gizmos are absolutely only meant to augment common sense, not replace it. It is truly sad how so many people run around like little blind moles not having a clue where they are or how anything around them works. Just eat, poop, sleep, and push buttons... What an existence.

Being basically curious how things work around you is a very basic human attribute that everyone should have. It leads to logical conclusions like, "well if the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, it would stand to reason that the sun would be easterly in the morning and westerly in the afternoon... and living in the northern hemisphere, it would be a bit toward the south at midday, since the sun is down in the direction of the equator... and between those, it would be between those (southeast, southwest, etc)" Oh damn, did I just ruin the magic for someone? awww...

I've noticed there are basically 3 kinds of people:

1. Those who generally keep a complete map of their surroundings in their heads at all times. Full situational awareness, putting everything together. Whether they've ever seen a map or not.

2. Those who generally only remember a history of what they've seen and what they've done, i.e. landmarks, turns, etc. Only history/event awareness, without putting it together spatially.

3. Those who just aimlessly wander or follow. No awareness at all.

Of course there are some degrees between them, but people seem to naturally gravitate toward one of the three. And yes, blindly following (technology, people, etc) all your life without thinking about why and how can lead more people to not develop toward #2 or #1, they are skills learned. The skills are much easier for some to learn than others, but everyone who has them learned them, it's not there automatically. Common sense is learned, not common. It can be self taught though.

BuckMay 8, 2015 4:16 PM

@rgaff

Then... as a result... a foreign government uses said weaknesses to spy on a top secret CIA operation happening on their soil, investigate, and bring charges against them for illegal activities???
...
Didn't I see a slide that said "CIA does nothing"... What the heck. They're all ok with this?
I doubt it... I'd expect the CIA to be much more than OK with this... They're probably quite pleased in fact. What with all the public exposure of outdated spycraft, it's probably easier than ever for them to blend in with the crowds of digital privacy advocates, journalists, lawyers, and political dissidents from repressive regimes! :-D

peterMay 9, 2015 12:19 AM

Clive Robinson:
"Way way to many people are becoming unselfreliant because they think that technology will save their neck when their poor preparation and planning gets them into trouble."

You mustn't have piloted a flight or maneuvered a sub, neither have I, where in adverse situations, human control is advised to become second fodder to computer aids. Possible to land a flight in fog without computer guides? Highly doubt it.

rgaff:
"Being basically curious how things work around you is a very basic human attribute that everyone should have. It leads to logical conclusions"

I think you try too hard to pigeon hole people kinds. Which leaves me to ask, do you trust that map?

rgaffMay 9, 2015 12:37 AM

@ peter

I merely try to be observant, not only of what's around me physically, but of the people I meet too, and I like to try to understand how they work too. If making observations makes me a pigeon holer, then, oh welp.

If by "do you trust that map" you mean, do I trust my people observations to be accurate... no, not at all. But they're the best I've got until I make better ones. If you can enlighten me though please do.

01May 9, 2015 9:01 AM

Hillariously enough, back in the day when phones with "internal software"-erasable (and writable) imei were relatively rare and costly (which means phones where IMEI can be manipulated by software on the phone itself, as opposed to an external flashing suite... and yes, nowadays there are numerous phones with IMEI that can be trivially accessed or made trivially accessible) I did play around with writing software that would automatically manage imei/sim rotation for you, as well as maintain proper link with contacts as rotation occurs (so that the end user doesn't have to think about which conspirator has which number now)

And since it re-writes IMEI automatically, all you need is a steady inflow of "virgin" SIM cards to keep the thing spinning.

Just you know, playing spy for fun's sake (I am not a criminal mastermind, lol :) )

Nowadays it would be even simpler because rooted Androids are basically slightly screwed up linux boxes, and there's a metric crapton of cheap Android phones with poorly protected (or unprotected) IMEI write access, so very little specialized knowledge is needed to "make it happen".

CIA should really have a tool like that (In case any CIA folks would like to hire me or buy my humble notes and prototypes, feel free to drop a line right here in the comments ;-) )

Clive RobinsonMay 9, 2015 9:10 PM

@ rgaff,

I love your rants, they make me happy.

That's kind of you. I used to also make a few people smile with occasional jokes and observations but I managed to shock the Moderator one day, so I've had to stop :-( @Wael can provide a link if your interested.

@ Peter,

You mustn't have piloted a flight or maneuvered a sub, neither have I, where in adverse situations, human control is advised to become second fodder to computer aids. Possible to land a flight in fog without computer guides? Highly doubt it.

Whilst I've not "piloted" a jet aircraft I have navigated in light aircraft and gliders.

A little aviation history for you, upto, during and for a time after world war two, there were no purpose built radio navigation aids for civilian flights. The "air / flight crew" in larger aircraft included the pilot, copilot, flight engineer, radio operator and navigator. It was the latters job to tell the two pilots where to fly. The first comercial jets were built with windows or domes in the top of the cockpit or just behind it where the navigator could take "star sights" with a "bubble sextent" to get either a position fix or a running fix. You would also see "loop antennas" on some non jet aircraft that the radio operator used to get aproximate bearings on comercial radio stations and early maritime radio navigation beacons. As aero radio navigation aids came into use it was initialy the radio operator who was responsible for using them and providing the navigator with the information. This was because they were often used via the main radio system not standalone equipment and even when they were they were unreliable and thus the radio operator would have to fix them in flight. As the reliability of the systems in aircraft improved the various air agencies under preasure of commercial airlines allowed the flight crew to be reduced in numbers and with improved auto pilots effectivly made even the pilots surplus to requirments for most of the flight.

So aircraft have definatly been landed in fog without the use of "computers guides". But as I know from a little while ago even "computer guides" won't stop pilots flying into buildings in fog, as the unfortunate pilot who flew his helicopter into a building crane in Vaxhaul South London proved.

If you move forward to todays radio navigation equipment used in aircraft and larger commercial ships, it is very unlike the personal GPS and smart phones people carry around. Firstly the equipment is certified and usually installed and maintained by certified personnel, secondly it's build quality both in terms of hardware and software is a lot lot higher. Thirdly they are usually built as redundant systems with additional backup systems, thus don't suffer from flat batteries and other frequent maladies of personal GPS and Smart Phones. And in the case of ships the crew are trained to navigate without them even in fog as standard as any ships master or mate will tell you. Further even those who take leisure certificates in sailing above "competent crew" such as the day skipper cert are required to show proficiency in the use of charts and navigation without the use of electronic aids.

As for submarines I've not been required to navigate any, however they don't use GPS when submerged and from what I've been told inertial systems using laser gyros are more than sufficient for the task as they also are for military aircraft including larger drones.

However I do know that submerged submarines just like boats/ships in thick fog, when fitted with reasonable depth finding equipment can quite happily navigate by the soundings given on charts and a set of tide tables and a reliable clock. I've done it myself even in very small craft when finding wrecks etc for diving/fishing.

WaelMay 10, 2015 1:01 AM

@Clive Robinson, @rgaff,

I used to also make a few people smile with occasional jokes and observations but I managed to shock the Moderator one day, so I've had to stop :-( @Wael can provide a link if your interested

Oh, yes! I can provide a link alright, I'll do the grunt work for you ;) The day @Clive Robinson shocked the moderator

@Clive Robinson can compress enough information in a few words to defy Claude Shannon's information theory tenets. I was the one who got him in trouble because I couldn't decompress what he meant, and when he deflated the message he got the warning and the whole discussion was purged :) All I remember is a couch, a lady, a picture and some morals...

By the way, here is @Clive Robinson admonishing me for the yellow card he got... Hmm I wonder about your ability to read between the lines sometimes, which if you remember got me a yellow card in the past... I'm not sure when I'll hear the last of it ;)

WaelMay 10, 2015 1:06 AM

Inflated -- not deflated...
Too bad we can't fix our posts after the fact! Would open a few holes and require some authentication mechanism. I think it would be a useful feature at the cost of repudiation, but if done right it maybe a good feature. I won't hold my breath...

ThunderbirdMay 12, 2015 4:21 PM

Clive sez: A little aviation history for you, upto, during and for a time after world war two, there were no purpose built radio navigation aids for civilian flights.
Well, not quite. Since the early 1930's, the four-course radio range was used for instrument navigation. According to the frequently-almost-correct Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-frequency_radio_range), it was invented around 1932 (or maybe that was the Adcock antenna array).

Four-course radio ranges were the basis of the first instrument approaches, at least in the United States. I assume the Brits were doing something similar, though maybe because of their more compact geography it didn't make as much sense over there.

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