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Fitness tracking app Strava gives away location of secret US army bases

Data about exercise routes shared online by soldiers can be used to pinpoint overseas facilities

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Fitness tracking app Strava gives away location of secret US army bases” was written by Alex Hern, for The Guardian on Sunday 28th January 2018 21.51 UTC

Sensitive information about the location and staffing of military bases and spy outposts around the world has been revealed by a fitness tracking company.

The details were released by Strava in a data visualisation map that shows all the activity tracked by users of its app, which allows people to record their exercise and share it with others.

The map, released in November 2017, shows every single activity ever uploaded to Strava – more than 3 trillion individual GPS data points, according to the company. The app can be used on various devices including smartphones and fitness trackers like Fitbit to see popular running routes in major cities, or spot individuals in more remote areas who have unusual exercise patterns.

However, over the weekend military analysts noticed that the map is also detailed enough that it potentially gives away extremely sensitive information about a subset of Strava users: military personnel on active service.

Nathan Ruser, an analyst with the Institute for United Conflict Analysts, first noted the lapse. The heatmap “looks very pretty” he wrote, but is “not amazing for Op-Sec” – short for operational security. “US Bases are clearly identifiable and mappable.”

“If soldiers use the app like normal people do, by turning it on tracking when they go to do exercise, it could be especially dangerous,” Ruser added, highlighting one particular track that “looks like it logs a regular jogging route.”

“In Syria, known coalition (ie US) bases light up the night,” writes analyst Tobias Schneider. “Some light markers over known Russian positions, no notable colouring for Iranian bases … A lot of people are going to have to sit through lectures come Monday morning.”

In locations like Afghanistan, Djibouti and Syria, the users of Strava seem to be almost exclusively foreign military personnel, meaning that bases stand out brightly. In Helmand province, Afghanistan, for instance, the locations of forward operating bases can be clearly seen, glowing white against the black map.

Helmand Province in Afghanistan.
Helmand province in Afghanistan.
Photograph: Strava heatmap

Zooming in on one of the larger bases clearly reveals its internal layout, as mapped out by the tracked jogging routes of numerous soldiers. The base itself is not visible on the satellite views of commercial providers such as Google Maps or Apple’s Maps, yet it can be clearly seen through Strava.

Outside direct conflict zones, potentially sensitive information can still be gleaned. For instance, a map of Homey Airport, Nevada – the US Air Force base commonly known as Area 51 – records a lone cyclist taking a ride from the base along the west edge of Groom Lake, marked on the heatmap by a thin red line.

Area 51, with a lone cyclist marked on the map.
Area 51, with a lone cyclist marked on the map.
Photograph: Strava heatmap

RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands is lit up brightly on the heatmap, reflecting the exercise regimes of the thousand British personnel there – as are nearby Lake Macphee and Gull Island Pond, apparently popular swimming spots.

Heatmap of people exercising at RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands.
RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands.
Photograph: Strava heatmap

When Strava released the heatmap, an updated version of one it had previously published in 2015, it announced that “this update includes six times more data than before – in total 1 billion activities from all Strava data through September 2017. Our global heatmap is the largest, richest, and most beautiful dataset of its kind. It is a direct visualisation of Strava’s global network of athletes.”

Strava demonstrated that the new heatmap was detailed enough to see kiteboarding in Mexico, to track the route of the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain and to see the sea route of the Ironman triathalon in Kona, Hawaii. Perhaps the closest to the current operational security issues that it noted, however, was the layout of the Burning Man festival in the Nevadan desert. “The unique pentagonal pattern of Burning Man’s pop-up city is forever etched into the Heatmap, thanks to all the runners and cyclists who have used Strava to explore it,” the company wrote.

  • How does Strava work?
  • Why are secret bases showing on Strava but not Google or Apple Maps?
  • What does Strava do?

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Trump May Pardon Military Men Accused Or Convicted Of War Crimes

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has asked for files to be prepared on pardoning several U.S. military members accused of or convicted of war crimes, including one slated to stand trial on charges of shooting unarmed civilians while in Iraq, the New York Times reported on Saturday.


Trump requested the immediate preparation of paperwork needed, indicating he is considering pardons for the men around Memorial Day on May 27, the report said, citing two unnamed U.S. officials. Assembling pardon files normally takes months, but the Justice Department has pressed for the work to be completed before that holiday weekend, one of the officials said.

One request is for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, scheduled to stand trial in coming weeks on charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife while deployed in Iraq.

Also believed to be included is the case of Major Mathew Golsteyn, an Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010, the Times said.

Reuters could not immediately identify a way to contact Gallagher and Golsteyn.

The newspaper reported that the cases of other men are believed to be included in the paperwork, without naming them.

The Department of Justice declined to comment on the report, while the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Legal experts cited in the report said that pardoning several accused and convicted war criminals, including some who have not yet gone to trial, has not been done in recent history, and some worried such pardons could erode the legitimacy of military law.

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Migrant Crisis

Trump Administration Considers Flying Migrants Across Country to Relieve Border Crowding

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Migrants wait in El Paso, Texas, to board a van to take them to a processing center on May 16. PHOTO: PAUL RATJE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The Trump administration may begin flying asylum-seeking families at the southern U.S. border across the country to have their initial claims processed, a Customs and Border Protection official said Friday.


For months, immigration authorities have been shuttling newly arrested migrants—mostly families and children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—between border stations as facilities have become overwhelmed. Migrants have routinely been bussed hundreds of miles from the border in Southern California or El Paso, Texas, to as far away as Tucson, Ariz., before authorities process and then release them to aid groups.

Now, plans are being laid for the air transportation of parents and children out of overcrowded stations to other locations in the U.S., including northern and coastal states with Border Patrol offices that have capacity, if the flow of families doesn’t diminish, the CBP official said.

“This is an emergency. The entire system is overwhelmed,” the official said. “We are just trying to safely get them out of our facilities as quickly as possible.”

Border Patrol officials have flown nearly 1,000 migrants from overcrowded processing centers and stations in the Rio Grande Valley to nearby Del Rio, Texas, and San Diego since last Friday, another U.S. official said Friday.

The private, contracted flights have cost between $21,000 and $65,000 each and can carry a maximum of 135 people, that official said.

Mark Bogen, the mayor of Broward County in South Florida said Friday that he was told by local law-enforcement to expect as many as 135 migrants to be flown to the area and released by the Border Patrol after their asylum claims are processed.

Mr. Bogen said Broward County doesn’t have the resources to manage such an influx and that its shelters are already crowded with homeless local residents.

“We don’t know if these are seniors or kids,” he said of the potential migrant arrivals. “We were provided one thing: the number 135.”

The CBP official said no migrants were currently being flown to Florida. “We are in preliminary planning stages,” the official said.

The Trump administration contends that the record number of adults with children presenting themselves for asylum has brought the border infrastructure to a breaking point. CBP said on Friday that the agency had averaged 4,500 apprehensions per day over the preceding week. Some 248,000 migrants travelling as families illegally entered the U.S. between October, the start of the federal fiscal year, and April—more than in any prior full year.

Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, have blamed President Trump for exacerbating the flood of families to the southern border by cutting aid to Central America and threatening to close the border altogether.

The White House is seeking $4.5 billion in emergency border funding from Congress along with changes to asylum laws that the Trump administration says would make it easier to detain families longer, process applications more quickly, and deter more people from making the journey to the U.S.

Democratic lawmakers have refused to fund asylum policies they consider inhumane, but indicated late Thursday that they would consider funding some of the administration’s requests, making a counteroffer that excludes funding for detention beds, a Congressional aide said.

(Reporting by Wall Street Journal)

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Trump Administration Rejects Subpoena For Tax Returns

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is missing another deadline to produce President Donald Trump’s tax returns. A top House Democrat says he expects to take the administration to court as early as next week over the matter.


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin) says in a letter Friday that he will not comply with the subpoena from the House Ways and Means Committee for six years of Trump’s tax returns because the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”

Mnuchin’s rejection of the subpoena had been expected. Earlier Friday, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal had said, “We will likely proceed to court as quickly as next week.”

Democrats are seeking Trump’s tax returns under a 1924 law that directs the IRS to furnish such information to the chairs of Congress’ tax-writing committees.

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