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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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Powerful earthquake shakes Mexico City

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A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck near Pinotepa de Don Luis, Mexico, south of Mexico City, this evening, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Se registra sismo en la CDMX. Se activa protocolo de revisión.

Se registra sismo de 7.2 con epicentro en Pinotepa Nacional, Oax. Sacude la CDMX. Se activa protocolo de revisión.

Posted by FOROtv on Friday, February 16, 2018

Videos on social media showed buildings shaking in Mexico City.

 

Mexico is susceptible to major earthquakes because it sits near the boundaries of three fault lines. A magnitude 7.1 earthquake in central Mexico on Sept. 19 left 228 people dead in the capital and 369 across the region.

Over the past few weeks, quakes have hit near Japan, Guam and Taiwan around the planet’s so-called ‘Ring of Fire’ – a geological disaster zone.

Research in California says aftershocks can occur on the margins of the area in which the quake took place following a cluster of tremors.

There may also be the possibility of a ‘big one’ in the immediate area, according to the researchers.

Over 300 people, including schoolchildren, died from a powerful earthquake in central Mexico last September.

 

 

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Ex-FBI agent breaks down over school shooting

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At least 17 people were killed Wednesday in a high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said.

The suspect, 19-year-old former student Nikolaus Cruz, is in custody, the sheriff said. The sheriff said he was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons. Police are investigating his digital profile, he said. So far, what they’ve found is “very, very disturbing,” Israel said.

At least 17 people have been taken to area hospitals, said Dr. Evan Boyar of Broward Health.

Law enforcement responded to reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shortly before 3 p.m. The shooting sent students and staff streaming out of the school in a panic.

The victims included students and adults, Israel said. Twelve were killed inside the building and two died outside, he said. One died in the street and two died at the hospital, the sheriff said.

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17 dead in Florida school shooting, law enforcement sources say

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At least 17 people were killed Wednesday in a high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said.

The suspect, 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz, is in custody, the sheriff said. The sheriff said he was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons.

At least 14 people have been taken to area hospitals following the shooting, Israel said.

Law enforcement responded to reports of a shooting at the school shortly before 3 p.m. The shooting sent students and staff streaming out of the school in a panic.

Immediately after the shooting, aerial footage from CNN affiliate WSVN showed people lying on the ground outside the school, being treated for injuries and moved to ambulances.

Freshman Kayden Hanafi said he heard two gunshots and saw people running out of another building on campus. As he and his classmates went into lockdown in a classroom, many thought the noise might have been firecrackers.

“It’s really a blessing to still be alive,” he said.

Nicole Baltzer, 18, said she was in trigonometry class about 10 minutes before the end of the school day when the fire alarm went off. As students evacuated, she heard six gunshots and everyone started running back inside the school

“I heard so many gunshots, at least like six. They were very close,” Baltzer said.

A police officer told her to close her eyes as she walked past a classroom with broken glass, telling her “there’s nothing good to see in there,” she said.

A freshman named Aidan posted a photo on social media from inside his math class while on lockdown. Since then, he has left the building.

“We have been liberated. God bless, America,” Aidan tweeted after being evacuated from the building. “Love each other. You may never know when it may be the last day you meet someone.”

There had been a fire drill at the school earlier in the day, leading some to believe at first that the afternoon incident was another drill, a student told WSVN. “Everyone just started freaking out.”

“But then word started going around that it was shots and not just, like, something else, everyone just started running towards the canal,” the student said.

Parkland, with a population of 31,000 people in 2016, was named Florida’s safest city last year, according to an analysis by the Washington-based National Council for Home Safety and Security, a home security industry trade association. The south Florida city had seven reported violent crimes and 186 property crimes the previous year, according to the analysis.

Stoneman Douglas High School had an enrollment of about 3,100 students in the 2015-16 year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

As news of the shooting spread, desperate parents gathered near the property searching for their children.

Lissette Rozenblat told CNN that her daughter safely evacuated the school and took shelter at a nearby Walmart.

“She was very nervous, she said that she could hear the person who was shot crying out for help, and was just a nervous wreck,” Rozenblat said.

Agents from the Miami office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are responding to the scene, a spokesman said.

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