on the part of my apartment where I sat on the couch talking to him. In late 2014, Grindr responded to security researchers who pointed out that risk by offering an option to turn off the apps distance-measuring feature, and disabling it by default in countries known to have a history of violence against the gay community, like Russia, Egypt. That trick works by creating two fake accounts under the control of the researchers. In a statement to wired responding to the research, a Grindr spokesperson wrote only that "Grindr takes our users safety extremely seriously, as well as their privacy and that "we are working to develop increased security features for the app. A few days ago, I warned my wife that the experiment I was about to engage in was entirely non-sexual, lest she glance over my shoulder at my iPhone. Grindr and Jack'd both fail to encrypt data that reveals the user is running the app by name, leaving that sensitive data open to any snoop on the same Wi-Fi network. But after a slightly longer hunting process, Hoang was still able to identify my location. In the Kyoto researchers' testing, they hosted each account on a virtualized computera simulated smartphone actually running on a Kyoto University serverthat spoofed the GPS of those colluding accounts owners. The Kyoto researchers method is a new twist on an old privacy problem for Grindr and its more than ten million users : whats known as trilateration.
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The location tracking attack in particular would seem to work with any app that lists users' locations in order of proximity. By adjusting the spoofed location of those two fake users, the researchers can eventually position them so that theyre slightly closer and slightly further away from the attacker in Grindr's proximity list. (That's the simpler but slightly less efficient method Hoang used to pinpoint my location.). (Most Grindr users do show their faces, but not their name.) But even then, Hoang points out that continually tracking someone's location can often reveal their identity based on their address or workplace. And unlike previous methods of tracking those apps, the researchers say their method works even when someone takes the precaution of obscuring their location in the apps settings. "You draw six circles, and the intersection of those six circles will be the location of the targeted person says Hoang. Ten minutes after that, he sent me a screenshot from Google Maps, showing a thin arc shape on top of my building, just a couple of yards wide. Their paper points to Syrian gay men lured into "dates" by members of isis, who are then arrested and stoned to death. But the trick can be done almost as easily with Android devices running GPS spoofing software like. Grindr's competitors Hornet and Jack'd offer differing degrees of privacy options, but neither is immune from the Kyoto researchers' tricks. If Grindr or a similar app tells you how far away someone iseven if it doesnt tell you in which directionyou can determine their exact location by combining the distance measurement from three points surrounding them, as shown in the the image at right. And Jack'd, despite claims to "fuzz" its users' locations, allowed Hoang to find me using the older simple trilateration attack, without even the need to spoof dummy accounts.