Sunday, October 27, 2019

NCS Month 2019 #4: Ignoring the Obvious

It's become something of a trope, with the near-universality of cell phones and smartphones these days, that more and more fictionalized crime dramas have taken to wiring their bombs to cell phones, such that they can be armed just about anywhere in the world.

For those that don't wire a second, back-up trigger, there is a very obvious solution to disarming the "bomb" that everyone glosses over.

It's called a Faraday cage, and they've been around since 1836.

Go figure: the anathema to cell phones predates them by over a century.

These days, they're a little more refined than just a well grounded cage designed to either protect what's inside or what's outside from errant electrical discharge, they can be spec'ed to shield for most (if not all) frequencies of radio waves, and some even fit in your pocket.

Cory Doctorow realistically demonstrates their use in Homeland, during a protest where police use a weaponised HERF to confuse and subdue the population. A well-placed bag saves three smartphones from becoming paperweights.
I waved a quick thanks at them and turned back to see Lemmy holding a silver ziploc bag.

"Phones," he said. "Quick!"

I recognized the bag: a Faraday pouch, the kind of thing you put your RFID-emitting ID, transit pass, toll road transponder, or passport into if you didn't want strangers to be able to read it.

But Faraday pouches weren't just good at keeping the stuff inside from communicating with the outside world: they were also good at keeping radio waves from the outside world from getting inside them. I yanked out my phone so fast I turned my jeans pocket inside out and scattered small change on the ground around our feet. Ange already had hers out. We dropped them in the bag and Lemmy shoved his in and sealed it and dropped it back in his backpack, then he took the mask from me and dug out his own goggles and pulled them on.

The people around us had seen this weird behavior and some of them were following us. Others were starting to push and panic, trying to get out, and I thought Oh god, there's going to be a stampede, we're going to die --

And at that moment, there was a crack like the sky was a sheet of paper being torn in two by enormous, divine hands, and every electronic device in the vicinity sputtered and died.
If you're a pre-apocalyptic prepper, you already know more about these things than I do. If you're not, you might want to think about getting your hands on one or two. 

They're not just useful for protecting your devices from the police or a prank gone wrong (or, perhaps, the fallout that leads to the end of days), but for a lot of devices that have non-removeable batteries (iPhones and OnePluses, for example), they're real handy for isolating your device from errant electrical charges.

Though you might want to put it in Airplane mode first, or when you pull it out you might discover you have a dead battery.