Fooling Repressive Governments with Tin Cans

“With a tin can, some copper wire and a few dollars’ worth of nuts, bolts and other hardware, a do-it-yourselfer can build a makeshift directional antenna.

A mobile phone, souped-up with such an antenna, can talk to a network tower that is dozens of kilometres beyond its normal range (about 5km, or 3 miles).

As Gregory Rehm, the author of an online assembly guide for such things, puts it, homemade antennae are “as cool as the other side of the pillow on a hot night”. Of late, however, such antennae have proved much more than simply cool.

According to Jeff Moss, a communications adviser to America’s Department of Homeland Security, their existence has recently been valuable to the operation of several groups of revolutionaries in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere.

To get round government shutdowns of internet and mobile-phone networks, resourceful dissidents have used such makeshift antennae to link their computers and handsets to more orthodox transmission equipment in neighbouring countries.”

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