Running app exposes names and locations of British spies and soldiers

10 Juillet, 2018, 02:09 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • Polar’s fitness app made it dangerously easy to track soldiers and secret agents worldwide

It now appears this could potentially be an industry-wide problem as researchers have seen another fitness app leaking even more sensitive information. However they also managed to uncover information that was not part of the affected users' public profiles.

What just happened? Another fitness company was found to be indirectly revealing the locations of personnel working for military and intelligence services.

The Flow fitness app produced by the Finnish sports activity tracking firm Polar has been found to reveal users' sensitive location data, according to the investigative news service Long Play, the Dutch online news service De Correspondent and the online citizen journalism group Bellingcat.

This could be done by looking at past routes on a single map, which may seem harmless enough, however Bellingcat claims that "Polar is not only revealing the heart rates, routes, dates, time, duration and pace of exercises" but "a$3 s people tend to turn their fitness trackers on/off when leaving or entering their homes, they unwittingly mark their houses on the map". The two organisations found areas such as a military base, selected an exercise that had been published there, then simply looked at where that same user profile had been.

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As a result, you only need to navigate to an interesting site, select one of the profiles exercising there, and you can get a full history of that individual.

Polar is the manufacturer of such popular running watches as the Polar M200 and M400, as well as fitness-oriented smart watches like the Polar M430 and M600, while its Polar Flow app is used to organize and view user data. From there, hundreds of servicemen were identified by searching social media for their full names, which they chose to provide publicly on the Polar app. Polar showed his runs in several military bases spread throughout the Middle East, as well as the start and finish of dozens of exercises from a house in NY state. A total of 650,000 exercise logs were discovered in the investigation.

The company has now suspended the Explore feature that enables users to publicize their activity.

And, as we saw from Strava during a similar privacy issue, Polar has responded to the findings within Flow by temporarily shuttering the Explore feature. "While the decision to opt-in and share training sessions and Global Positioning System location data is the choice and responsibility of the customer, we are aware that potentially sensitive locations are appearing in public data, and have made the decision to temporarily suspend the Explore API".

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