Running app Polar Flow exposes locations of spies and military personnel
11 Julio, 2018, 12:43 | Author: Earnest Bishop
It allows users to track their fitness and sleep activity, analyze their progress, set fitness targets and get guidance, and connect with other fitness enthusiasts. So, if you select a site as "military base" in the app and choose any fitness regime, the app would reveal the names of all the users associated with that exercise.
Polar has issued a statement addressing the security loophole, clarifying that there has been no leak or breach of private data, and has apologized for the suspension of its Explore feature.
The Institute for United Conflict Analysts (IUCA) founding member Nathan Ruser discovered that the interactive map could be used for intelligence gathering, highlighting the location of military facilities - many supposedly secret.
Polar's fitness app had security flaws exposing the location data of its users, according to a joint investigation from De Correspondent and Bellingcat.
Finding Western military service personnel was easy by cross-referencing names found on the Polar website with social network profiles such as those found on LinkedIn.
Polar has suspended its Explore feature and will likely release an update to address privacy concerns. It then becomes a very simple task to find an individual who works at a military base, including their name and what they look like, but also where they live.
The news comes in the wake of revelations separate fitness tracking data company Strava published a heat map visualisation of its users' athletic activity previous year which revealed secret army base locations. As people tend to turn their fitness trackers on/off when leaving or entering their homes, they unwittingly mark their houses on the map.
Users of the Flow app were located at several military bases, including Erbil in northern Iraq, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Gao in Mali.
Polar is not the only app doing this, but the difference between it and other popular fitness platforms, such as Strava or Garmin, is that these other sites require you to navigate to a specific person to view separate instances of his or her sessions, each exercise having its own small map.
"In contrast to Polar's app, there is no indication that people whose profiles are set to private can also be identified in these apps", they added. In effect, unless users opt for completely private profiles, their data is put at risk.
"As always, check your app-permissions, try to anonymize your online presence, and, if you still insist on tracking your activities, start and end sessions in a public space, not at your front door". Now the vast majority of Polar customers maintain the default private profiles and private sessions data settings and are not affected in any way by this case.
De Correspondentalso provided how-to-guides for securing data collected through the Polar, Endomondo, Runkeeper, Runtastic, and Strava apps.
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