Security Experts:

Many GPS Tracking Services Expose User Location, Other Data

Researchers discovered that many online services designed for managing location tracking devices are affected by vulnerabilities that expose potentially sensitive information.

Fitness, child, pet and vehicle trackers, and other devices that include GPS and GSM tracking capabilities are typically managed via specialized online services.

Security experts Vangelis Stykas and Michael Gruhn found that over 100 such services have flaws that can be exploited by malicious actors to gain access to device and personal data. The security holes, dubbed Trackmageddon, can expose information such as current location, location history, device model and type, serial number, and phone number.

Some services used by devices that have photo and audio recording capabilities also expose images and audio files. In some cases, it’s also possible to send commands to devices in order to activate or deactivate certain features, such as geofence alerts.

Attackers can gain access to information by exploiting default credentials (e.g. 123456), and insecure direct object reference (IDOR) flaws, which allow an authenticated user to access other users’ accounts simply by changing the value of a parameter in the URL. The services also expose information through directory listings, log files, source code, WSDL files, and publicly exposed API endpoints that allow unauthenticated access.

Stykas and Gruhn have notified a vast majority of the affected vendors in November and December. Nine services have confirmed patching the flaws or promised to implement fixes soon, and over a dozen websites appear to have addressed the vulnerabilities without informing the researchers. However, the rest of the tracking services remain vulnerable.

There are roughly 100 impacted domains, but some of them appear to be operated by the same company. Researchers have identified 36 unique IPs hosting these domains and 41 databases that they share. They estimate that these services expose data associated with over 6.3 million devices and more than 360 device models.

The vulnerable software appears to come from China-based ThinkRace, but in many cases the company does not have control over the servers hosting the tracking services. 

Gruhn and Stykas pointed out that vulnerabilities in ThinkRace products – possibly including some of the issues disclosed now – were first discovered in 2015 by a New Zealand-based expert while analyzing car tracking and immobilisation devices that relied on ThinkRace software.

Users of the online tracking services that remain vulnerable have been advised to change their password and remove any potentially sensitive information stored in their account. However, these are only partial solutions to the problem and researchers have advised people to simply stop using affected devices until patches are rolled out.

Related: Vulnerability in Mobile Networks Allows Easy Phone Tracking

Related: Majority of Android Apps Contain Embedded User-Tracking

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.