Tuesday, 14 August, 2018

Pentagon bans smartphones, apps that use geolocation services

Pentagon puts restrictions on fitness trackers | TheHill Pentagon restricts use of fitness trackers, other electronic devices that reveal locations
Anna Jefferson | 07 August, 2018, 19:42

That's because a new memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan prohibits the use of GPS-enabled devices - including wearable fitness trackers and smartphone apps that can track your location - in deployed settings, the Department of Defense announced Monday. Geolocation, he said, "can expose information, locations, routines and numbers" of Defense Department personnel, and "potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission".

If a commander determines the risk is too great, the devices and apps themselves won't be prohibited, so long as the location-tracking features on them can be ― and are ― switched off.

The Pentagon is banning deployed personnel from using fitness trackers, smartphones and potentially even dating apps that use geolocating features that could reveal the user's location.

The new Pentagon policy allows commanding officers to evaluate whether troops should be allowed to use geolocation technology if they deem it doesn't pose a threat - or if a mission requires the use of Global Positioning System apps.

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".

But troops on missions in more sensitive locations, such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or parts of Africa would be restricted from using the devices or be required to turn off any location function.

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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 USA troops and other security forces overseas.

Concerns about exercise trackers and other electronic devices came to a head in January in the wake of revelations that an interactive, online map was pinpointing troop locations, bases and other sensitive areas around the world.

USA troops walk outside their base in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan July 7, 2017.

Outlines of USA outposts in Syria and Iraq could be seen in the maps because many US military personnel used fitness tracking devices, while few local people own them, according to media reports.

This is the second memo affecting the use of electronic devices that the department has released in recent months.

Strava apparently intended no harm but, you can guess how uneasy this made service members and senior Pentagon officials.

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