Could Strava be used to triangulate where you live?
News article published on: 11th May 2019
A number of very good racing bikes have been stolen – and the police have reason to believe that they have been targeted on Strava.
How can Strava be used to target you?
Strava is an app used by many competitive cyclists to compare routes and timings. There are thousands of users out there who like to see how to go faster and where they stand among the local racing crowd.
The problem with this is that many people hit the start button for their GPS ride as soon as they leave the house. They also identify what bike they are using. If you are on a £2000 carbon racing machine then you become a target for criminals. If you do three routes in three different directions from the same spot then someone inconspicuously on the street nearby could spot which front door you’re using.
The evidence isn’t bulletproof and no one has been prosecuted for staking out a rider in this way. Strava indeed, completely deny that this has ever happened. If you look through the Osborne’s Cycle Injuries archives you will see we have raised this before as this isn’t the first time Strava has been accused.
Here’s some more evidence. Sky News reported last week how a triathlete was burgled one day when he was in the house, and had both bikes stolen. The burglars knew exactly what they were after as they stole nothing else, and had the cojones to crowbar his front door open and smash his windows in broad daylight.
Sky News also reported a Gwent policeman’s view. Adam Lang told the news organisation: “We needed to contact the victims and see if we could find if there was any connection between them. And through those enquiries we came up with the fact these mapping apps were being used, not by all, but there were quite a lot of them.
Lang continued, “Due to the fact they were all high-end bikes and they were clearly targeted, we feel these mapping apps could be used to target these high-end bikes. Because looking at the maps, you could clearly see where these people had started their rides and where they’d finished them.”
Some security techniques
If you have all the gear and are really into cycling there’s no doubt you’re a competitive type. Even so we have some tips as to how you can make it a bit more difficult for your potential burglars:
- Adjust your privacy settings. Does everyone need to know just what bike you’re riding? Do you need to advertise your address?
- Widen your privacy zone to a hundred or so metres away from your home.
- Start your GPS a couple of minutes away from each ride. If you always started your GPS tracker two streets away then it could take quite some time for someone to case you out. By then you might have spotted them.
- Vary the times you start by a half hour or so.
- Don’t always head off on the same route. Good security involves never taking the same way home twice.
With these sensible precautions in mind, you may well dodge being targeted in the first place. Just be mindful that if you are riding an expensive machine then people may well be interested in you.