Fitness tracker Polar gives away identities & locations of military, intelligence worldwide

11 July, 2018, 12:39 | Author: Sherman Richardson
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In light of the investigation, the fitness company chose to deactivate the Explore feature in Polar Flow from July 6.

The Explore component of Polar Flow was meant to show anonymous data on its users and their activities around the globe, displaying it in a similar fashion to the activity map that was responsible for Strava's woes earlier in the year.

Polar has acknowledged that the Explore feature could be used to provide insight into potentially sensitive locations, but blamed users for sharing their data.

The Polar app is similar to the Strava app in that it has made heat maps accessible to the public, making military locations and even the residences of military personnel public, if you know what to look for (and hackers always know what to look for).

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

The discovery, detailed today in a joint investigation from Bellingcat and Dutch journalism platform De Correspondent, involves Polar sharing data from its users, complete with profile pictures and often actual names of users, via a publicly available "Explore" feature.

Mobile fitness app Polar has suspended its location tracking feature after security researchers found it had revealed sensitive data on military and intelligence personnel from 69 countries.

While Strava simply highlighted where its users exercised without revealing any names (meaning that anyone looking to track an individual's movements would also have to do some cross-referencing work), Postma reports that Polar's social platform, Polar Flow, gives all of a user's personal information in one place.

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"We are analyzing the best options that will allow Polar customers to continue using the Explore feature while taking additional measures to remind customers to avoid publicly sharing Global Positioning System files of sensitive locations", Polar said in the statement.

"As people tend to turn their fitness trackers on/off when leaving or entering their homes, they unwittingly mark their houses on the map", Bellingcat wrote.

Users of the Flow app were located at several military bases, including Erbil in northern Iraq, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Gao in Mali. "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", the De Correspondent reporters noted.

Fitness company Polar was forced to suspend its activity map after it was used to unmask some 6,500 military and intelligence officers, including those at nuclear sites, in combat in Syria and stationed at the North Korean border.

Polar has become the latest fitness tracker to be accused of spilling identifying user data to all and sundry. And you can see where those runs start and stop.

"It is important to understand that Polar has not leaked any data, and there has been no breach of private data", the company said in a statement.

That's not all; Polar also lets you view the entire exercise history of a user since 2014.

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