Fitness App Strava Reveals Location of Secret Military Bases Around the World

A fitness-tracking app revealed the location, layout and staffing of secret U.S. military bases after publishing detailed heat maps of its users’ activities.

The map, first published by Strava Labs in November 2017, covered 17 billion miles of distance and a total recorded activity duration of 200,000 years.

“Our global heatmap is the largest, richest, and most beautiful dataset of its kind,” Drew Robb, a data engineer at Strava, said in a blog post at the time. “It is a direct visualization of Strava’s global network of athletes."

Strava—whose app can be used in conjunction with fitness-tracking devices like Fitbits as well as smartphones and smartwatches—highlighted the privacy rules it had put in place when creating the map.

It had excluded private activities and cropped activities in order to respect users’ defined privacy zones.

Robb's blog post continued: “Data from non-moving activities can have the undesirable effect of highlighting homes or businesses.”

It emerged that Strava’s heat map had revealed sensitive information after a military analyst posted a series of tweets on Saturday detailing the issue.

“[The heat map] looks very pretty, but not amazing for Op-Sec. US Bases are clearly identifiable and mappable,” Nathan Ruser, a founding member of the Institute for United Conflict Analysts (IUCA), wrote.

“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.”

Read more: This is how we know Russian hackers Cozy Bear disrupted the U.S. elections

It was not only the details of secret U.S. military bases that were exposed by the visual data. Ruser also pointed to an area of the map that appeared to show a Turkish patrol to the north of the Syrian city of Manbij.

Another area of the map appeared to show Russian troops operating in and around the Khmeimim Air Base in Syria.

Independent security analyst Tobias Schneider noted that Strava’s heat map went beyond revealing the locations and layouts of military bases around the world.

“Okay here is where things get problematic: Via Strava, using pre-set segments we can scrape location specific user data from basically public profiles (and yes those exist w/in bases and lead us straight so social media profile of service members),” Schneider said in a tweet.

“Not gonna post links or info but easy to very quickly ID a lot of people in very remote/sensitive places via this."

Strava did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Newsweek.

Join the Discussion