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Report: GPS Tracker Used By Fitbit and Other Wearables is Exposing Sensitive U.S. Military Info
A GPS tracker found in Fitbit and other wearable devices has been exposing “highly sensitive information” about the locations and movements of soldiers at military bases in the United States, the Washington Post reports.
The activity and whereabouts of the soldiers is being exposed by a Global Heat Map published by the GPS tracking company Strava, according to the Post, “in what appears to be a major security oversight.” Strava will record the movements of its subscribers over a two-year period so that if a solider is wearing a Fitbit while out on a run, for instance, the satellite will track his or her movements via the heat map.
The U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State released a statement to the Post indicating that “it is revising its guidelines on the use of all wireless and technological devices on military facilities as a result of the revelations.”
“The rapid development of new and innovative information technologies enhances the quality of our lives but also poses potential challenges to operational security and force protection,” said the statement, which was issued in response to questions from The Washington Post.
“The Coalition is in the process of implementing refined guidance on privacy settings for wireless technologies and applications, and such technologies are forbidden at certain Coalition sites and during certain activities,” it added.
Strava released their global heatmap. 13 trillion GPS points from their users (turning off data sharing is an option). https://t.co/hA6jcxfBQI … It looks very pretty, but not amazing for Op-Sec. US Bases are clearly identifiable and mappable pic.twitter.com/rBgGnOzasq
— Nathan Ruser (@Nrg8000) January 27, 2018
The Post notes that while the Global Heat Map was posted online this past November, the sensitive information it was including only became known this month when a 20-year-old student from Australia “stumbled across it.”
Nathan Ruser, who is studying international security and the Middle East, found out about the map from a mapping blog and was inspired to look more closely, he said, after a throwaway comment by his father, who observed that the map offered a snapshot of “where rich white people are” in the world.
“I wondered, does it show U.S. soldiers?” Ruser said, and he immediately zoomed in on Syria. “It sort of lit up like a Christmas tree.”
He started tweeting about his discovery, and the Internet also lit up as data analysts, military experts and former soldiers began scouring the map for evidence of activity in their areas of interest.
The Pentagon actually distributed 2,500 Fitbits to military personnel in 2013 as part of a pilot program aiming to combat obesity, according to the Post.
Photo: Getty iStock