HOPSEC: Beer Rating App Could Pose a Military Security Threat

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A bottle of Red River Brewing Company’s Fear the Dark beer.
A bottle of Red River Brewing Company’s Fear the Dark, a dark, German lager with notes of coffee and chocolate, sits on the brewery bar in Shreveport, Louisiana, March 16, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. Garrett L. Dipuma)

Tapping into a beer rating app allowed researchers to track military and intelligence personnel, including some who checked in at a military base that hosts a CIA training facility known as "the farm."

Users of Untappd, a smartphone app for beer lovers, also posted photos that showed debit cards, military ID cards, locations of fighter jets and possibly sensitive military documents, the open-source research and investigative journalism group Bellingcat reported Monday.

The app encourages users to log what they're drinking and where, and lets them rate their favorite sudsy drinks and discover new ones. Using their phone's geolocation, they can check in to drinking establishments or discover other nearby bars and restaurants.

But with some creativity and "a little bit of digging," those interested in snooping can use those same features to discover military posts and other sensitive sites, as well as the people who frequent them.

"Examples of users that can be tracked this way include a U.S. drone pilot, along with a list of both domestic and overseas military bases he has visited, a naval officer, who checked in at the beach next to [Guantanamo Bay's] detention center as well as several times at the Pentagon, and a senior intelligence officer with over seven thousand check-ins, domestic and abroad," wrote Foeke Postma, a Bellingcat researcher and trainer who authored the report. "Cross-referencing these check-ins with other social media makes it easy to find these individuals' homes."

Untappd shows nearly 600 unique visitors on its Ramstein Air Base page who have rated more than 2,600 beers -- not including other establishments on base that have their own pages.

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