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These Nerds saw the invasion of Ukraine begin on Google Maps before Vladimir Putin said a word

The world has seen Russia’s push to wage war on a dance app. But it was a traffic app that let some researchers in California know that the invasion was underway even before Russian President Vladimir Putin made the announcement late Wednesday night.

In the months leading up to the invasion, TikTok users in Russia and Ukraine posted videos of Russian armored vehicles going from drip to flood on an app usually for twenty people to dance to. viral song clip.

But the first public information that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had begun – even before Putin declared war early in the morning – came from a handful of pundits who watched traffic jams develop on their traffic screens. Google Maps right next to a Russian military vehicle plantation south of Belgorod, a town in Russia near the Ukraine border.

Moscow has repeatedly banned mobile devices and social media from its military use in order to prevent this exact scenario. But the availability of real-time information about Russian troop movements and the beginning of the war shows how even basic consumer technology makes it difficult to keep military secrets.

Jeffrey Lewis, a scholar at Middlbury’s Institute for International Studies whose research team first found the dash towards the border, says a ban on mobile devices won’t necessarily help the military stay safe all their secrets.

“It’s a logical move but it doesn’t solve their problem,” he told The Daily Beast. “We live in an age where all the patterns of our lives are recorded and recognized digitally. Even when the Russian military turns off their phones, the disruption they cause is still a deviation from the normal life we ​​immediately recognize in the form of “no traffic at 3am.”

Team Middlebury became vigilant late on Wednesday when rumors that the invasion might begin later that evening had peaked. At 3:15 a.m. local time in Belgorod, John Ford, a graduate research assistant at Middlebury, spotted something unusual — a traffic jam showing up on Google Maps right next to the highway. E105, runs from Norway through Russia and down to Crimea.

Google can provide real-time traffic updates by monitoring location data uploaded from phones with the app installed, and the presence of late-night traffic may seem worthwhile. doubt. A handful of local vehicles seem to have trouble moving down to the E105, causing the app to show traffic jams. When the Middlebury team saw the incident moving down the highway towards Kharkiv in Ukraine, they knew they were on to something.

The researchers did not stumble across traffic jams when looking across hundreds of miles of borders between Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Instead, they are tracking the exact locations of traffic jams thanks to the high and low techniques of open source intelligence work, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), and TikTok.

In the days leading up to the invasion, Steven De Le Fuente, Middlebury’s research assistant, came across a catalog of images provided by the Capella Space satellite that was capable of radar imaging. SAR images are especially useful for seeing what’s on the ground when the sky is cloudy. Radar waves penetrate those clouds and bounce back to form a consistent picture where the light beams illustrating conventional satellite photographs show only faint, obscured streaks.

Over the past two weeks, satellite images have shown a massive influx of vehicles and troops into Belgorod, just over an hour north of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, where US intelligence officials have warned there could be a target of a Russian invasion. De La Fuente found a special formation of Russian tanks, surface-to-air missile launchers and armored personnel carriers near the E105.

“It was the skeleton key that unlocked the analysis because the day before we saw a large Russian armored unit forming along the road, that’s what you would expect an attack. We don’t see any evidence that they intend to stay. No tents,” Lewis said.

And in case of any doubt, a TikTok user has been helpful uploaded a dashcam videocomplete with Russian hard rock soundtrack, showing surface-to-air missile launchers seen in the radar image parked on E105, device and position confirmation.

Traffic jams dragged near the border with Ukraine until Mr. Putin suddenly appeared on Russian TV channel at 5:45 a.m. Moscow time, to declare war on Ukraine and intend to overthrow his government. The traffic jam was then cleared and gone, and soon, web cameras in Kharkiv, showed explosions on the skyline outside the city.

Since the war began on Thursday, social media has been flooded with images of Russian weapons and troops attacking Ukraine. But Lewis and his team are still using Google Maps traffic monitoring equipment to track another grim development in the conflict — traffic jams across the country as civilians flee cities in hopes find shelter from the fighting.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/these-nerds-saw-ukraine-invasion-start-on-google-maps-before-vladimir-putin-said-a-word?source=articles&via=rss These Nerds saw the invasion of Ukraine begin on Google Maps before Vladimir Putin said a word

Russell Falcon

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