Information Warfare: The End Will Not Come With a Bang, But With a Ring Tone


February 19, 2006: While dictatorships have been concentrating on controlling Internet access in their countries, some have found that an even greater danger is coming from cell phones. These phones are harder to tap than the older, landline models. Moreover, cell phones also allow text messages, which are able to more easily use codes. This enables citizens to quickly spread information the dictators would rather not be let loose. Cell phones are also portable, enabling a few cell phones to spread news to a much larger number of people. Truly, a despots worst nightmare.

Some nations have simply kept cell phones out, but most have been unable to resist the convenience of cell phones, and brought them in anyway. Partly, this was in reaction to the use of cell phones on their borders, where wireless phone networks from across the border "leak" in. Then there was the problem of being unable to control satellite phone use. Jamming cell or satellite phones is expensive, and most dictatorships these days are too broke to afford the necessary equipment.

North Korea has made it a criminal offense to have an "illegal" cell phone. But these tiny devices are easy to conceal, and difficult to detect when in use, even with good monitoring equipment, Along the Chinese border, the use of illegal cell phones is rampant. It takes longer for information to travel inland, but the bad news (for the communist rulers) eventually gets through. In Burma, the military dictatorship has set up a special section in military intelligence to hunt down illegal cell phone use. But the news will get through anyway, even as the jails fill up.

China, which has allowed cell phone use to proliferate, has over 100 million users, and a major headache in news management. The government continues to try and crack down, but the cell phones are winning. This is causing major political headaches.

For dictatorships the world over, the end will not come with a bang, but with a ring tone.


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