Mobile Communication

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Title of the tutorial Mobile Communication
Kind of learning session Hands-on Tools
Tutorial category
Duration (hours) 2h30
"h30" can not be assigned to a declared number type with value 2.
Learning objectives How does mobile communication work? Who has access to your information along the way? And what you can do to take back some control over what information others have access to?

Understand the basics of mobile technology: how a mobile phone and mobile communications infrastructure work, and what data traces you leave behind.

Understand the trade-offs and basic security issues related to Android, iPhone, Windows and Feature phones respectively.

Methodology Step 1: Introductions (10 min)
   Briefly introduce yourself and the session, then ask participants to introduce themselves and answer the following questions:
       What do you use your phone for?
       What do you want to learn in this session?
   Taking expectations into account, give a brief overview of the session, including objectives, what will be covered (and what not), and how much time is available.

Step 2: The basics of mobile communication (45 min)

The following activity allows participants to see how mobile communication actually works, and what information third parties have access to along the way. Activity: "How Mobile Communication Works" Preparation

   Choose whether you are going to explain 'How mobile communication works' using (1) Mobile Communication Cards or using (2) paper and pen.
   For either option, be prepared to demonstrate how mobile communication works in at least two scenarios:
       through cellular networks (voice/sms, chat apps)
       through Wi-Fi (eg chat apps or browsing)
   If not already covered, also be prepared to draw the infrastructure of the internet, including how it works when using a VPN, proxy, and Tor. It could be useful to have a diagram at hand as a guide.
   Cards: If you're running the Cards version of this activity, print out ready-made cards from the materials page on, or create your own. You will need at least two sets: Mobile Infrastructure cards, and Internet Infrastructure cards. If the group if big, you may need to print out multiple sets. Ideally there should be one card per person.
   Paper and pen: If you are running this activity without cards, Make sure you have enough paper, pens and markers. There should be multiple pieces of paper per participant.

Option 1 - CARDS (40 min) What does the cellular network infrastructure look like?

   Depending on numbers, this exercise can be done in one group or multiple groups. Give each group one set of cards and ask them to put the cards in the correct order, showing how a mobile phone connects to another mobile phone through a cellular network.
   Compare results and then go through the order together. Ask participants if there are specific concepts that are unclear, and clarify.

How does a mobile phone connect to the internet?

Using the cards, get participants to demonstrate the difference between (1) connecting to the internet through a cellular network - cell phone towers, 3G/4G - and (2) connecting through Wi-Fi.

   What parts of the mobile phone and mobile communications infrastructure are involved?
   Who has, or could have, access to what information, at which points along the way?

Option 2 - PAPER AND PEN (40 min) Draw the cellular network infrastructure

   Hand out paper and pens to each participant, and write up some key words on the flip chart: cell phone tower, 3G/4G, telco, triangulation.
   Ask participants to draw what the mobile communications infrastructure looks like, showing how a text message (SMS) travels from their phone to a friend's phone.
   Break participants into small groups. to present their drawings to each other and discuss differences and similarities.
   On the flipchart, draw how how mobile communication works. This should include the baseband, 3G/4G, Cell phone towers, mobile phone provider, triangulation.

Draw how a mobile phone connects to the internet

   Ask participants to get into small groups and together draw how a mobile phone connects to the internet (give a specific case study, eg 'connecting to a website')
   Groups come back together, and compare their drawings.
   On the flipchart, draw two ways in which a mobile phone can connect to the internet:
       Through the baseband, 3G/4G, Cell phone towers
       Through Wi-Fi Receiver, Router, internet provider, internet infrastructure.
   Discuss: Who has, or could have, access to what information, at which points along the way?

Key concepts to cover

   Mobile phone infrastructure and triangulation
   Internet infrastructure
   The difference between connecting over 3G/4G (cellular networks) and Wi-Fi (internet).

Step 3: How does a phone work? What third parties have access, to which parts? (40 min)

The following activity looks at how a mobile phone works, and how different parts of the mobile phone are used for information collection and tracking. Activity: "Your Mobile Phone - A breakdown in 4 Layers" Preparation

   Make sure you have the Mobiles Reference Document.
   Download the pdf What is a Mobile Phone? and either print out one copy per 4-6 participants, or project the pdf onto a screen. (If you have not downloaded these from the Materials Needed section, you can find them here.

Intro: What's a mobile phone?

From the group, elicit components of a mobile phone and write them up on a flipchart. Possible answers could include:

   SIM card
   If participants hesitate, ask targeted questions like
       How does the phone record your voice? (It has a microphone)
       How does the phone store your contacts? (It has memory, like a PC hard drive).

A mobile phone in 4 layers

Walk the group through each page of the pdf and clarify any terms or aspects of the mobile phone that are unclear. A detailed breakdown can be found in the Mobiles Reference Document. Focus on one layer

   Set the following questions for group discussion (each group only needs to answer the questions relevant to their own page):
       What data is created? (Only pages "Core", "Smart", "Operating System")
       What are the risk involved with sharing this data? (Only page "Data Traces")
       Who has access to this data? (All pages)
       What are different actions you can take to increase your privacy and security? (All pages)
   Bring the group together for feedback, clarifying anything that's unclear.

Data traces

Get particpants back into the same groups and set the following questions:

   For the groups with Core, Smart, and Operating System: Focusing on the items on your page, what can you do to increase your privacy and get more control over your mobile phone?
   For the group with Data Traces: What are the risks involved in creating and sharing these data traces? (Also think about these traces being connected together)


Each group presents their findings. After each presentation, ask the other groups if there is anything they can add, and offer clarification/information where needed. Step 4: What can you do? Tips on managing your traces (20 min)

Walk participants through the Hands-On Checklist of the Mobiles Reference Document. Since this is not a hands-on session, run through these as a general overview. Step 6: Mobile Communication: Consolidation Quiz (10 min)

Download the Mobile Communication Quiz. The quiz can be done using a projector or by reading out the questions, or it can be done individually with printed-out forms. Step 06: Wrap up (10 min)

   See if anything is unclear, and answer questions
   Direct participants to resources
   Hand out Tactical Tech's Pocket Privacy for Mobiles if you have them. 
Number of facilitators involved 1 or 2
"or2" can not be assigned to a declared number type with value 1.
Technical needs Projector
   Mobile phone breakdown in 4 layers
   Flip chart
   A4 Paper
   Mobiles Reference Document
   Cards - How the Internet Works
   Cards - How Mobile Communication Works 
Theoretical and on line resources [[Theoretical and on line resources::"Mobile Tools", Security in-a-box (Tactical Tech / Front Line Defenders)
   Mobile Safety (Level-Up Trainers' Curriculum)
   Umbrella app for Android (Security First)
  Pocket Privacy Guide - Mobile]]