How AirTags are a Potential Threat to privacy

A new property tracking product turns the entire IOS network into a location tracking mesh network that could easily be used by stalkers and criminals to target their victims.

Apples AirTags are compact have wide spread coverage, and are affordable. These devices are designed to be used for tracking your belongings but potentially can track anything. Airtags are registered to the owners ICloud account so they can be found using the Find My app or simply by connect to blue tooth for near by locating.

This is done without GPS (allowing them to be much smaller) by turning every IOS/MacOS device into a mesh network. The AirTag sends out a secure Bluetooth signal that can be detected by nearby apple devices that have the bluetooth turned on and that device sends the location of your AirTag to iCloud for you to find in the Find My app.

These devices being small and lightweight means they could easily be concealed on someones person or in their possessions in order to track them without their permission/knowledge presenting a huge problem specifically for someone who is being harassed or stalked.

There is an attempted countermeasure to this use case but it is unclear at this point how effective it will be especially since it would seem it requires you own an IOS device in order for it to protect you. Apple states

“If someone else’s AirTag finds its way into your stuff, your iPhone will notice it’s traveling with you and send you an alert. After a while, if you still haven’t found it, the AirTag will start playing a sound to let you know it’s there.”

This “protection” requires if you have an IOS/MacOS device that you leave your bluetooth turned on otherwise your device cannot pick up the signal from the AirTag to know that it is there. This is unadvised as it leaves your phone vulnerable to host of other attacks and issues.

With Only 13.25% of computers in the United states being Mac and roughly 30% of mobile devices (tablets and phones) running IOS. Means that the majority of people are not protected by Apples safeguard against being tracked without consent while still having enough devices out there around a person to create a viable mesh network for someone to rather effortlessly track someone with out them ever knowing.

While compact tracking tech is not a new thing, The wide coverage, low cost, and small package due to no need for GPS makes this a serious potential threat to watch out specifically by targeted individuals, those who are victims of stalking, and criminal investigators in future cases.

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