Fri, 16 Nov 2018
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U.S. troops to be banned from using GPS tracking apps

By Sheetal Sukhija, Indiana State News
08 Aug 2018, 23:31 GMT+10

WASHINGTON, U.S. - In January this year, the Pentagon was left aghast after it was revealed that the popular fitness tracking map, Strava had broadcast sensitive data about U.S. military bases to the world. 

The expose by Nathan Russer, a student at the Australian National University in Canberra drew attention to a global heat map posted online by the fitness tracking company that revealed the outlines of U.S. military bases in some of the most dangerous locations in the world.

The data that was made publicly available by Strava, broadcast patterns of movement of U.S. personnel at American military facilities around the world, including in war zones.

Further, it exposed the routes taken by supply convoys and patrols.

The discoveries left the Pentagon aghast, especially after it learnt that the identities of individuals working in sensitive and hazardous locations were exposed and anyone could study the data to identified and expose vulnerabilities. 

With experts warning that the public availability of such critical data represents “a potential catastrophe,” the Pentagon immediately launched a review of its security.

The U.S. military also said that it is adjusting guidelines for the use of all wireless devices on military facilities.

This week, following its review of GPS trackers and apps in the aftermath of the Strava shocker - the Pentagon has officially launched a crackdown on soldiers' GPS tracking apps.

The U.S. military reportedly issued an order to immediately begin restricting soldiers' use of GPS tracking apps in areas deemed to be sensitive or dangerous.

The order will mean that troops in "operational areas" such as war zones or overseas U.S. bases would now be required to disable their electronic devices' geolocation services.

The order reportedly states, "The rapidly evolving market of devices, applications, and services with geolocation capabilities... presents significant risk to Department of Defense (DoD) personnel both on and off duty, and to our military operations globally.”

Adding, "These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of DoD personnel, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission."

However, the order stops short of banning smart devices and fitness tracking electronics themselves, and allows commanders to determine when they can be used.

Making the announcement this week, Pentagon spokesman Col Rob Manning told reporters, "It goes back to making sure we're not giving the enemy an unfair advantage and we're not showcasing the exact location of our troops worldwide.”

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