GPS devices could put American soldiers at risk

Hacked smart phones used by military personnel could reveal location information, which could endanger troops and missions.


Global Positioning System receivers in smart phones and digital cameras can be an invaluable tool, providing location information and directions to users. But if you’re not careful, they also can provide location information and directions to anyone who might be watching you.

Examples of the risks have cropped up recently in both military and everyday situations.

Two security experts told NetworkWorld that hacked smart phones used by military personnel could reveal location information, which could endanger troops and missions.

Hugh Thompson, a software security professor at Columbia University and conference chairman for the RSA Conference, and Markus Jakobsson, who works for PayPal’s online security and malware strategy team, said enemies could get location information from phones by using a technique similar to a recently discovered malware program aimed at phones using the Android operating system.


Related stories:

Is your smart phone infected with malware?

Is there a place for smart phones of the battlefield?


That malicious program, discovered by Russian security company Kaspersky Labs, sends Short Message Service messages to a number that charges the phone’s user $5 a message, but it also could be used to expose location information.

Thompson and Jakobsson told NetworkWorld that hacked phones aren’t the only danger for troops. A lot of the applications they might use to communicate with people at home could pose a risk. Malware isn't even necessary, according to Gautham Naugesh, writing in The Hill. "Even using the applications that come with the phone can pose risks. Unless deactivated, most pictures taken with smartphone cameras are tagged with geocodes containing the coordinates of where they were taken," Nagesh wrote. "Troops sending pictures home to family members could give away their locations if the pictures are intercepted."

A number of security experts and privacy advocates have been trying to raise awareness about geotags, and that fact that they could reveal location information without the user’s knowledge, according to the New York Times. Free browser plug-ins allow anyone to identify the location of a photo from the geotag.

Geotags can be turned off, but users would have to root around a bit to manage it. However, the Web site ICanStalkU.com provides instructions for disabling geotags on Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and Palm devices.

Beyond image tagging, devices with GPS receivers could be compromised in other ways. In a blog post this week, Symantec researchers said that a Trojan in a free game application for Android phones taps the GPS to upload the user’s location every 15 minutes. Their location could be tracked by someone using an app called GPS Spy, which cost $4.99 and also runs on Android devices.

The Tap Snake application, a variation of the snake video came that dates to the 1970s, “uploads the GPS data every 15 minutes to an application running on Google’s free App Engine service,” the Symantec researchers said. “GPS Spy then downloads the data and uses this service to conveniently display it as location points in Google Maps. This can give a pretty startling run-down of where someone carrying the phone has been,” including the times a user stopped at any location.

Fortunately, the threat to anyone from Tap Snake is unlikely, since the attacker would have to have access to the user’s phone – an e-mail address and registration key would have to be entered into both the phone running Tap Snake and the phone running GPS Spy, the researchers said. A bit of social engineering would likely be required.

But the intent behind Tap Snake is another indication of the how cyber threats grow with new technology. Theoretically, a hacked smart phone in the hands of military personnel could provide a detailed picture of troop movements, said Jakobsson, who told NetworkWorld he has discussed the problem with the Defense Advanced Project Agency.

Meanwhile, experts advise users to be careful about how they use some of their new tools, since they could also be used against them

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.