Anna Sheffer
January 29, 2018 12:58 pm
Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

The creation of fitness apps and wearables like Fitbit has revolutionized the way we work out. But, like any technology, these fitness aides can have serious implications for users’ security. Recently, it was discovered that one fitness app, Strava, was causing users to unintentionally reveal top-secret military information.

Strava, an app that can be used with devices like Fitbit, Jawbone, and smartphones, released a map of users’ activity worldwide back in November. And at the time, it seemed like a harmless feature. Other apps, like Runkeeper or Runtastic, also allow users to track their daily exercise routes. But on January 27th, Nathan Ruser, who works for the Institute for United Conflict Analysts, zoomed in on the map and found something surprising in Syria.

In a series of tweets, Ruser shared his discovery that United States military bases were clearly outlined on Strava’s map. Ruser also explained that the implications of soldiers using the app to track their workouts could be deadly.

The military bases with the highest risk of exposure on Strava’s map are located in countries without many native users, like Syria or Afghanistan. For example, a foreign policy columnist for the Daily Beast wrote that, thanks to the Strava data, he was able to view a secret missile command center in Taiwan. Individual soldiers who use the app are also in danger of being identified if their Strava data is compared to other social media data.

Pentagon spokesperson Rob Manning said that Secretary of Defense James Mattis had been alerted to the problem and that the Department of Defense would address its policy concerning the use of smartphones and other devices. And a spokesperson for the U.S. Central Command told CNN that it was also working to refine policies.

The news that Strava revealed military bases is terrifying, and it has serious implications for individuals as well as the military. Fortunately, if you feel uncomfortable sharing your running route on social media, you can change your Strava privacy settings. Fitness apps can be wonderful tools, but this Strava map was a serious breach in security, and we hope that the military works to prevent anything like it from happening in the future.