Jogging app Strava reveals highly sensitive information about United States soldiers' location

29 January, 2018, 11:07 | Author: Shannon Newton
  • Strava's Fitness Heatmap Makes it Easy to Find Military Bases

The Global Heat Map, published by the GPS tracking company Strava, uses satellite information to map the locations and movements of subscribers to the company's fitness service over a two-year period, by illuminating areas of activity, The Washington Post reported Sunday. The fitness app Strava, available for both iOS and Android, launched a giant, updated map of its users' fitness activities this past November.

The US-based sports app Strava announced a year ago that it was launching a new version of its Global Heat Map, which would be six times more intricate than the original model unveiled in 2015. A 20-year-old global security and Middle East expert finally took a closer look at the map this weekend after his father noted it basically shows "where rich white people are", the Washington Post reports.

The Washington Post reports that cities in the United States and Europe show up as "blazes of light" because of the amount of activity, but in warzones such as Iraq and Syria the map "becomes nearly entirely dark - except for scattered pinpricks of activity" which align with known USA bases, and other "potentially sensitive sites".

Zooming in on known military bases in Iraq and Syria reveals hives of tracked activity, presumably mapping the fitness and patrol routines of soldiers.

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The Pentagon has been interested in fitness trackers since it distributed Fitbits to US troops in 2013. In 2013, the Pentagon distributed 2,500 Fitbits as part of a pilot programme to combat obesity.

According to an analyst quoted by The Guardian, although the heatmap "looks very pretty", it's not awesome for operational security at us military bases that are clearly identifiable and mappable.

"I wondered, does it show U.S. soldiers?"

Ruser began tweeting about the heat map Saturday and other military experts and analysts soon weighed in.

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The site does not identify the users of the app and shows many locations that may belong to aid agencies, United Nations facilities and the military bases of other nations - or anyone whose personnel is likely to use fitness trackers, said Tobias Schneider, an worldwide security analyst based in Germany.

The Post added that other journalists on Twitter were also weighing in on what they identified to be US military bases. In Helmand province, Afghanistan, for instance, the locations of forward operating bases can be clearly seen, glowing white against the black map. But in doing so, it also shows locations where soldiers wearing those devices are training, including sites in Somalia, Niger, Syria and Afghanistan. In more remote areas, such as Afghanistan, Djibouti and Syria, the users of Strava are said to be nearly exclusively foreign military personnel. Concentrations of light inside a base may indicate where troops live, eat or work, suggesting possible targets for enemies.

The Strava app is far more common in western countries than elsewhere - making foreign military bases easily identifiable as isolated "hotspots" in the Middle East.

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