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Apple AirDrop cracked! China finds way to identify sender's personal details

Apple AirDrop functionality was being used by activists and the Chinese authorities launched a crackdown and successfully managed to identify the sender's name, email address, and phone number.

By: AISHWARYA PANDA
Updated on: Jan 10 2024, 10:31 IST
Know how Apple AirDrop vulnerabilities were exploited in China. (Apple)

New Apple AirDrop capabilities were announced recently to add more on the already available ones and most of the features look to guarantee security to the user. AirDrop has been a handy tool for protesters and activists to hide their activities from governments. However, the feature has been controversial for quite some time now. Chinese authorities raised questions about this iPhone feature. It was reported that when the feature is in “receive messages from Everyone” mode it can receive files and messages from anyone, however, this has created a massive privacy concern as a new crackdown by China has ended up exposing senders' names, phone numbers, and email addresses. Know more about AirDrop vulnerabilities here. This will be a concern not just for Apple, but for all of users, specifically activists, globally.

AirDrop vulnerability crackdown

According to a China government blog, the functionality was used by protestors to share details or information censored by the government. It also accused users of carrying on anti-government activities and influence protestors. During the crackdown, the Beijing Wangshendongjian Forensic Appraisal Institute conducted research and found a way to crack Apple AirDrop, revealing personal details of users.

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The report added, “It was found that the fields related to the sender's device name, email address, and mobile phone number were recorded in the form of hash values, and some fields related to the hash value were hidden.” With this crackdown, police were able to catch multiple suspects, however, it was not disclosed if any of them were arrested. However, there were no signs of a breach in content encryption, but the AirDrop functionality was used to find the senders' details.

It has been alleged that the functionality was being used for sending illegal pictures, videos, audio, and other information to people in crowded places such as subways, buses and shopping malls to foment trouble. The blog stated that “this behavior cannot be effectively monitored through conventional network monitoring methods.” due to the lack of internet connection.

Now, for most users of AirDrop, the question that arises is how Apple will be dealing with this newly emerged problem and whether it will have to roll out a new update to fix the security loophole.

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First Published Date: 10 Jan, 10:08 IST

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