Cybersecurity

NSA wants NatSec users to mask location data

eyes peering from behind data 

The National Security Agency is advising users of Defense Department and National Security Systems to take steps to mask their location data on mobile devices and computers.

In an Aug. 4 cybersecurity advisory, NSA warned users of the risks inherent in using connected devices that transmit and receive cellular signals and employ Bluetooth and WI-Fi connectivity, noting that precise location data can be obtained by monitoring those signals and information on movement, daily activities and routines, associations among users and more.

"When location exposure could be detrimental to a mission, users should prioritize mission risk and apply location tracking mitigations to the greatest extent possible," the guidance states.

NSA is also concerned about the proliferation of location and personal data on applications and social media networks, noting that even taking privacy settings into account, "information [on social networks] may be exposed to a wider audience than intended." The guidance also reminds users that the content of pictures and certain metadata encoded in photographs can also yield location data.

NSA advises users to take certain steps, including disabling connectivity and location settings when not in use and operating in airplane mode when devices are not in use. Additionally, location data sharing should be turned off for the device and for individual apps and apps that rely on location data such as mapping, traffic and fitness trackers. Additionally, NSA advises tuning privacy settings to limit advertising tracking, turning off any "find my phone" settings that allow for the remote pinpointing of devices and using an anonymizing virtual private network to shield location information.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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