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How a Fitness Tracking App Exposed US Military Secrets

30 January, 2018, 01:01 | Author: Lydia Fleming
  • Image Strava

The fitness app does not exclusively allow people to find sensitive USA information.

The app, called Strava, was launched in 2011 and uses Global Positioning System data to track user activity such as running or cycling.

"Imagine how many similar data sources are out there we're ignorant of (because) it's not posted online", he wrote on Twitter.

That's because Strava published a heat map that shows the recorded activity of millions of users around the world, complete with data that might identify key army secrets.

While the newest version of the app was released by Strava in November 2017, and tracks two years of exercise, the potential lapse was discovered on Saturday by Nathan Ruser, a 20-year-old Australian university student.

In Iraq, for instance, the sparse data accumulated by Strava appears to be concentrated around well-known military bases. But in some countries, the heatmap appears to illuminate paths taken around military structures used by American and allied military personnel, Agence France-Presse reports.

A fitness app has accidentally exposed the location of secret U.S. military bases, raising security fears over soldiers stationed there.


In a statement quoted by CNN, Strava said: "Our global heatmap represents an aggregated and anonymised view of over a billion activities uploaded to our platform".

"Whether you are concerned about someone knowing where you are, where you ran or where you live, we've got the tools to help you take control", the company said.

Strava has urged it's users to check privacy settings and reaffirmed that data shared on heatmap is only that which has been made publicly available by users. According to the app maker, the heatmap relies on public data. Nevertheless, it's happening, and the USA -led coalition against the Islamic State is now in the process of revising its guidelines on the use of all wireless devices at military locations.

A USA military spokesperson told the paper it is looking into the issue.

Other easily identifiable bases include those used by the United States in Syria and Iraq, a UK RAF base in the Falklands, and one used by French forces in Niger.

"Recent data releases emphasize the need for situational awareness when members of the military share personal information", Major Audricia Harris, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told AFP. This is bad news for security, as it establishes reliable "pattern of life" information that would otherwise be unavailable to the rest of the world.

The US Department of Defense said in response to the Strava data that "annual training for all DoD personnel recommends limiting public profiles on the internet, including personal social media accounts". "I thought the best way to deal with it is to make the vulnerabilities known so they can be fixed".

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