US Intel Agency Urges Military Personnel to Turn Off Cellphone Location Data Over Security Concerns
20:32 GMT 05.08.2020
The US National Security Agency (NSA) issued new guidance on Tuesday advising military and intelligence-community personnel to turn off location-sharing services on their cellphones to prevent security breaches.
"Location data can be extremely valuable and must be protected. It can reveal details about the number of users in a location, user and supply movements, daily routines (user and organizational), and can expose otherwise unknown associations between users and locations," the NSA bulletin warned.
In the alert, the NSA also noted that even if cellular service is turned off for a mobile device, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can still be used to identify a user's location. Tech companies can then sell parts of that data to marketers, advertisers or other customers.
"Inconspicuous equipment (e.g., wireless sniffers) can determine signal strength and calculate location, even when the user is not actively using the wireless services. Even if all wireless radios are disabled, numerous sensors on the device provide sufficient data to calculate location," the agency said.
The agency also warned that other gadgets that connect to the internet, including fitness trackers, smart watches, some medical devices and other household smart devices, could be susceptible to security breaches and may reveal sensitive location data.
"While there are countless benefits to using mobile devices, location data exposure can be a risk to users," Neal Ziring, technical director for cybersecurity at the NSA, said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.
"NSA publishes technical and threat analyses based on our authorities and customer needs. As connected mobile devices continue to expand into more networks, we've received more queries from our national security customers about using them securely."
The warning comes as tensions between Washington and Beijing grow over the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok, with US President Donald Trump last week saying he plans to ban the app from the US over concerns that China may be using it to collect data on American citizens and businesses.
Most recently, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Wednesday that the Land of the Free wants to "see untrusted Chinese apps removed from app stores," noting that apps TikTok and messenger platform WeChat post significant threats to Americans' personal data.
Microsoft on Sunday revealed that it is in talks to buy some operations of TikTok. Trump this week said he would allow an American company like Microsoft to buy the app, with the caveat that the US Treasury would get a "very large percentage" of the selling price.
"Whether it's Microsoft or somebody else, or if it's the Chinese - what the price is, the United States could - should get a very large percentage of that price. Because we're making it possible," he said, CNN reported.
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