Neglected security: Government official ignores privacy settings

Onur Demirkol
Mar 10, 2023

A security researcher has tracked the location of a former top Biden administration official through the AllTrails app.

According to Vice's Motherboard, a security researcher discovered a huge issue that could lead to serious controversies soon. A former top Biden administration officer's physical location data has come out. The researcher gathered records, including visits to the White House and an apartment near, possibly, the home where his family lives.

"I found interesting results by searching near the Pentagon, NSA, CIA, or White House and then looking at the user's other activity," said Wojciech, the security reporter.

Wojciech mentioned that they used their own surveillance platform. The platform offers "Real-Time Intelligence from Social Media, Cameras, Internet of Things, and Industrial Control System devices. In addition, search Wifi or Bluetooth networks and look for planes, cruises, and city traffic." Currently, the tool supports Strava, a running and cycling app, and will soon support AllTrails.

He didn't give the official's name but emailed his profile to Motherboard. Apparently, the top Biden administration official's account is still accessible, and they didn't respond to a request for comment. According to data, a trip to the White House in December can be seen, as well as another trip to a nearby apartment he ended his journey at. Multiple journeys were also recorded in the official's movements.

Users can control visibility settings

"AllTrails is a public community-based platform for users to share their outdoor hiking and trail experiences. Importantly, we offer customizable privacy settings that allow users to choose what content is visible to whom. That means users control visibility settings for all of their own content, including activities, completed trails, maps, and lists," said Meaghan Praznik, head of communications at AllTrails.

Motherboard realized that multiple trips were starting from the same location and later discovered that is the top Biden administration official's house, "meaning AllTrails had helped identify where the official or his family may have been living."

AllTrails is a popular hiking app with over 30 million registered users. Members can discover hiking routes that others use, and it is an app set between a sports tracker and a social media platform. When you start your own account, all your data is set to public as default. If you want more privacy, you must go to settings and change your privacy preferences. The application lets you change your complete trails, activities, and maps to "followers only" or completely private.

Users often ignore privacy settings, but they are important, especially if you are a ranked government official.


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