The app, which shares data from Strava athletes globally has exposed some of the world’s most secretive and sensitive military bases.
Over the weekend Australian student Nathan Ruser was studying the map and noticed that data from the app that read heat signals exposed the running routine of military personal in the Middle East and other war zones.
Strava released their global heatmap. 13 trillion GPS points from their users (turning off data sharing is an option). https://t.co/hA6jcxfBQI … It looks very pretty, but not amazing for Op-Sec. US Bases are clearly identifiable and mappable pic.twitter.com/rBgGnOzasq— Nathan Ruser (@Nrg8000) January 27, 2018
Mr Ruser, a student of international security at the Australian National University, explained he had been following the situation in Syria since 2014. When he first came across Strava’s heat map, he decided to check the war-torn area using the app and the “whole thing lit up like a Christmas Tree.”
The app measures the noise or heat signature from runners, tracking their route. For places like Sydney the map is overwhelmed by jogger’s routes all blurred together, however in places like Syria, military bases and isolated training circuits are clearly outlined against a black background.
"In countries where that is not so much a thing, that noise gets filtered out," Mr Ruser explained to the ABC.
The only people using the apps would be foreign military personnel.
The US military is looking at how dangerous the Strava app is for their personnel serving in war zones.
Strava uses satellites to collect data from fitness devices such as Fitbits and other fitness trackers, primarily designed for runner the show their routine to others, the heat map has collected heat signatures globally between 2015 and September 2017.
The satellite imagery, which is often used by the military clearly shows the base, but the danger of the Strava heat map is the ability to see which buildings are frequented the most, and the possible running routes of soldiers.
“You can establish a pattern of life for a base," he explained.
The heat map also clearly established US military pathways and main patrol highways.
“You can see the main supply highway for US forces in Syria, and I just remember thinking 'f***, that's not good'," Mr Ruser said.
"Patrol routes, isolated patrol bases, lots of stuff that could be turned into actionable intelligence," tweeted Army officer Nick Waters.
The Pentagon has dealt with the potential risk, blocking internal Strava heat signatures.
Mr Ruser explain that he believes the heat map is not entirely Strava’s fault.
“They probably should have had the foresight to look at the map before they released it, but the app has a policy where you can opt out of data sharing, and that hasn't been done by the soldiers," he said.
"If you ask me, I don't expect the map will be online for that much longer."
Australia’s military bases in the Northern Territory show some activity, however a spokesman for Department of Defence explains the heat map does not breach security.
Lead Image: Strava heat map around Al Asad airbase in Iraq.