On August 1, 2016, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Global Islamic Media Group (GIMF) released the third issue of its English-language magazine Al-Risalah. Page 36 of the magazine features an article on smartphone security, which notes that smartphones can be secured by “rooting” the device and installing an alternative operating system. It also lists several types of security software that fake device information, such as IMEI, IMSI, MAC, UUID and other “identification fingerprints.” The article also advises to remove anything from the phone that is useless or dangerous, such as antennas, cameras, and microphones. It then references a widely-known instructional video on the removal of NFC chips, which are hidden GPS tracking devices in smartphone batteries.
The article warns that removing the GPS receiver or GPS tracking device will not prevent one from being tracked, and that older phones without these features are also unsafe, since there are other methods of tracking smartphones. One such method mentioned is triangulation, whereupon a silent SMS is used to the phone’s signal. “IMSI-Catchers intercept your mobile traffic and eavesdrop on your phone calls and messages,” the article warns. “All this even before the Sensor Operator of the war drone [sic] pulls the trigger.”
The article then notes that when a smartphone detects cell towers and wi-fi nodes, the phone’s country code, network code, GSM operator, location area code, MAC address and cell ID are all logged and sent to Google, which uses it to pinpoint the user’s exact location and GPS coordinates. Moreover, it continues, it is cheap and easy to program an Android application that searches for wi-fi signals and sends location information to wi-fi location services, such as Google, and that such an application can be loaded onto your phone without it being detected by anti-virus software or other security tools.
The article also cautions that while tracking chips are routinely blamed for targeted bombings, it is often the individual’s own fault for not taking proper security precautions that such bombings occur.