Published: Thu, August 09, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Pentagon puts restrictions on fitness trackers

Pentagon puts restrictions on fitness trackers

"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".

The Pentagon has issued guidance that prohibits Department of Defense personnel in operational areas from using location-tracking features on devices, apps or services, such as fitness tracking technology.

Deployed US military personnel are no longer able to use devices and applications with geolocation software, including fitness trackers and certain features on smartphones, based on a security risk assessment, the Pentagon said Monday.

The Department of Defense has banned the use of any smartphone and applications that use geolocation services in operational areas.

The change comes more than seven months after an worldwide security student, Nathan Ruser, reviewed information released by the GPS tracking company Strava and discovered that a "global heat map" it provided could be used to map the locations of us troops and other security forces overseas. Manning, the Pentagon spokesperson, said punishments for doing so would be "determined on a case-by-case basis" and that commanders would be given "some type of space to make decisions on the ground".

While the ban will affect the United States overseas operations, the personnel working at the Pentagon will still be allowed to use the devices.

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For all other locations, such as installations in the United States and overseas, "the heads of DoD components will consider the inherent risks associated with geolocation capabilities on devices, applications, and services, both non-government and government-issued, by personnel both on and off duty", the memo states.

At the time, the map showed activity from 2015 through September 2017.

"Our military is operating in a new, hyperconnected world where off-the-shelf products are introducing threats to national security", said Bill Leigher, a retired US Navy rear admiral who's now director of government cyber solutions at Raytheon.

Observers noted that few local residents owned the devices and that the activity seen on the heat map allowed for the mapping of military bases and potentially even top secret sites.

The new policy, which is effective immediately, follows reports from earlier this year that some wearable electronic devices, like the popular Fitbit, can convey users' Global Positioning System coordinates in the form of publicly available online maps that display the most frequently trafficked routes of users who allowed their location to be shared.

Annual Cybersecurity Awareness training will also be updated to assist DoD personnel in "identifying and understanding risks posed by geolocation capabilities embedded in devices and applications".

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