Exercise app Strava recently came under fire for showing the locations of its 27 million worldwide users over a two-year span. Strava tracks subscriber activity via satellite among users who use exercise gadgets like Fitbit for exercise monitoring. Military and security experts caution that the leak shows military bases that are meant to be private, especially in remote areas without much other nearby activity, compromising national security.
Strava’s response notes they are taking the matter seriously, especially keeping in mind the sensitivity of soldiers overseas who may have their locations compromised if they are in a rural area. In response, Strava plans to work with military and government officials to address the leak of sensitive data, while reviewing features to ensure they help prevent being compromised in the future. They also intend to roll out features that allow more control of your data.
Beyond military concerns, the recent Strava debacle should prompt everyone to evaluate how they take privacy precautions in their tech. Whether you’re spending time online or with a mobile app, here are some tips to help maintain your privacy wherever your digital presence may be:
Verify App Permissions
Every modern phone operating system provides the ability to customize your app permissions, like which apps can access your microphone and camera. Although certain apps, like personal assistants, need microphone access to function, there’s no need to grant microphone access to an app that does not need it, like an image editor.
Android and iOS function similarly regarding app permissions, with app permissions found under “Settings” and then “Privacy.” It’s prudent to be aware what exactly your apps are accessing.
Update Apps Regularly
Apps like Strava are no stranger to security vulnerabilities, though they’re rarely as public as the Strava complication. Many security vulnerabilities are detected by the app developers, with subsequent fixes rolled out in updates. You can help ensure that your apps are not vulnerable to hacking by updating them regularly. For both updates to iOS and Android, as well as specific apps, updates are a pivotal way for developers to plug security vulnerabilities.
Stay Watchful on Social Media
Social media’s prevalence in society makes it a ripe target for hackers. Hackers on social media often assume the identity of someone you know, with a fake profile. Upon friending you, they may ask for money or information that can help them access your account. As a result, be extremely wary of anyone on social media requesting sensitive information, even if they appear to be someone you know. It’s very easy to fake a profile on Facebook or Twitter. Setting your social media accounts as private, or “Protected Mode” on Twitter, helps reduce the likelihood of a hacker attempting to reach you.
On social media, it’s also a good idea to turn off location-based posting. Found under “Settings” and “Privacy” on Facebook, disabling location-based posting prevents you from sharing your location unless it’s critical to your post. Some users have it set to default that every post they make shows their location, which is a security and safety risk.
Be Weary of Download Attachments
Email accounts also remain a tempting avenue for hackers. Like on social media, hackers can masquerade as people you know, sending an email saying something like “This is a very important file for your issue!” with an attachment. Opening that attachment can cause a virus to take over your computer that extracts sensitive information, so make sure your firewall is on and your anti-spyware is up to date.
As a result, it’s prudent to avoid opening email attachments unless if they’re from someone you know. Especially with cloud-based platforms like Google Drive rising as a platform for file sharing, sending attachments via email is an archaic method of sending files that are prone to security risks.
These tips can help give you a clearer picture of how tech privacy is impacting you, from the extent of your app permissions to staying smart about the ways hackers approach social media and email users. Privacy is a very important aspect of technology, which the Strava incident illustrates.