Monday, 10 December, 2018

Polar fitness app leaks military personnel locations

No running sign Polar fitness app leaks military personnel locations
Samantha Long | 11 July, 2018, 02:05

Back in January, a fitness app called Strava attracted some unflattering attention when security experts discovered that they could easily locate secret military bases on a public map of Strava users' workouts.

Polar said in a statement it was suspending the app's feature that allowed users to share data, while noting that any data made public was the result of users who opted in to location tracking.

A joint investigation from De Correspondent and Bellingcat has revealed that Finnish company Polar's fitness app Polar Flow exposed the geolocation details of its users.

Open source and social investigative site Bellingcat and Dutch news publication De Correspondent were able to access exercise data shared by users of Polar's Flow social platform, and glean large amounts of location information from it. I also suggest not connecting your fitness tracker to any of your social media accounts on sites like Facebook and Twitter - as we know, those can also already collect a whole mess of data on their own. All one needs to do is find a military base, select an exercise to identify the attached profile, and see where else this person has exercised.

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".

We also learned the names and addresses of personnel at nuclear storage facilities, maximum security prisons, military airports where nuclear weapons are stored, and drone bases.

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We can find Western military personnel in Afghanistan through the Polar site.

The firm added that it had been aware that the potential existed for sensitive location data to appear in public information, saying that it had chose to temporarily suspend the Explore API, which allows users to share information about training sessions.

Polar ultimately chose to disable the map on its website, preventing others from recreating this research. Furthermore, changing your privacy settings in the app only affected new workouts - if you'd had your previous workouts set to "Public", they'd still be public even after you changed your privacy settings, according to Bellingcat.

The practice was in effect for over three years and only ended in August last year when the company made the most private option its default setting.

The researchers noted that it's harder to identify people and find their home addresses via the other apps, but that they managed to do it. 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.

Polar told De Correspondent that less than two percent of its users have publicly available logs.

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