Apple has a few security issues you need to look out for. AirDrop is a convenient way to share files, but researchers found out that it comes with a risk as other people can hack into your device using the iPhone feature.
AirDrop is one of the most convenient features Apple has installed on their iOS devices. It can send multimedia files in a few seconds directly to the phone number and email of a nearby AirDrop user. When using AirDrop to send files, the receiver will see a preview of the incoming content along with a link that can redirect them to open the file in Safari.
AirDrop has three options when active, and it is "Receiving Off," "Contacts Only," and "Everyone." Often when using Airdrop, you select the "Contacts Only" option. AirDrop would then send the file to the other user that matches your contact information.
Gizmodo reported that researchers from the Technische Universitat Darmstadt in Germany detected some of these Apple AirDrop flaws.
When using the "Contacts Only" option, researchers said that AirDrop uses a "mutual authentication mechanism" to cross-reference the user's email and phone number with the sender's contact list. Apple runs this system with a level of encryption during the exchange. Unfortunately, the exchange could be easily cracked through "simple techniques such as brute-force attacks."
The hacker only needs a device with Wi-Fi and to be physically close by to start the attack. The hacker can open up the AirDrop sharing pane, break the encryption code, and now gain access to your personal files and start stealing them. You wouldn't even notice it happening!
This is not the first flaw AirDrop has shown. The feature is also notoriously reported to be associated with digital harassment. Some people use cyber-flashing, where a stranger bombards a victim's phone with unwanted photos of graphic or sexual content. User @juliaebeebe tweeted her unfortunate experience on the topic.
Someone just tried to airdrop a dick pic to my phone in a public space ???? I'm so confused and angry?????— jules (@juliaebeebe) August 26, 2017
Mashable reported that other researchers such as Secure Mobile Networking Lab (SEEMOO) and the Cryptography and Privacy Engineering Group (ENCRYPTO) have also discovered these flaws. Both companies alerted Apple about the issue in May 2019. However, the company never responded or provided a solution to the problem
How to Turn Off AirDrop and Protect Yourself
Unfortunately, with Apple being silent about the issue, you have to take other steps to ensure your privacy. Here are some practical solutions against hackers and cyber-flashers.
Turn off your AirDrop and Bluetooth when not in use. These malicious actors use the open connectivity to launch their attacks, so be sure to turn them off when possible. This is not a permeant option, and you can always turn the AirDrop feature back on if you need it. When opening AirDrop, only receive files from close friends or contacts you know. Avoid using the feature in public spaces where malicious actors can detect your device.
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