Apple a solution against misuse

Apple integrates an essential function on its AirTag. Son but? Prevent tags from being used for spying and harassment by helping iPhone owners spot them. A welcome measure, but still insufficient…

“The AirTag is the perfect accessory to find everything.” This is how Apple presents its tracking device on its website. But find everything? Absolutely everything ? Espionage, invasion of privacy, harassment… The use of cookies, initially intended to find lost everyday objects, has unfortunately been hijacked by malicious people. To call back, simply attach the accessory to something – a wallet or keys for example – and ring it with the “Locate” application on your iPhone to find it, in real time. Many complaints have been filed with the authorities because some use it to track and harass women or their ex-partners, or to track down for thefts and burglaries. According to a survey published in April 2022 by the media Vice , approximately 150 police reports relate to women being tracked with this device across the United States. In most cases, the Apple AirTags were hidden in the monitored person’s car or in their bag.

In November 2022, Apple had rolled out firmware version 2.0.24 – the internal software – of its tracking beacons, but did not report the improved improvements. It is now chosen done, since the firm has just revealed on its site that these are the security measures promised a few months earlier. Now the Precise Location feature helps to locate an unknown detected AirTag that travels with the person. If her iPhone is on, a notification alerts her when an AirTag separated from its owner is traveling with her and plays a sound to indicate that it has been moved. But these measures do not completely solve the problem…

Precise location: detect the AirTag of others nearby

In update 2.0.24, Apple enabled Precise Location. As its name suggests, this is a function to facilitate the location of an AirTag, but not just any since it is an accessoryunknown detected moving with you”, explains the American firm. Convenient for finding a beacon, placed by others in their bag or on their car! A notification appears on the iPhone screen to warn the person that an AirTag separated from its owner is “travelling” with them, while an audible alert is emitted by the tag. This is a major change since, before, you had to wait a few hours before being notified… and the damage was sometimes already done.

Then remains to find the informer, the criminals redouble their imagination to conceal it. Now, the “Locate” application provides clearer indications associated with sound alerts in order to find the indiscreet object. The process is the same as finding your own AirTag. Unfortunately, only owners of iPhone 11, 12, 13 and 14 can take advantage of this novelty, since the device must be equipped with a U1 chip to be able to use Ultra Wide Band technology – a radio transmission standard used for data transmission, location and access control. A note that a second more recent update, 2.0.36, fixed a fix since in some cases the accelerometer – the sensor that detects AirTag movement – ​​does not activate.

Apple AirTag: too light security measures

Apple had already made several improvements to its AirTags to try to stem this problem. Originally, an AirTag away from its owner only started ringing automatically after three days, which left plenty of time to track and/or harass someone. The firm therefore very quickly reduced this turnaround time to less than 24 hours, while improving its algorithms so that they could more quickly detect the presence of a nearby snitch. She has also developed an Android app so that even people without an iPhone can enjoy this security as well. But these measures do not solve the problem. For them to be effective, everyone should have one of the two applications on their smartphone, which is far from the case. In addition, one can find tags tampered with to no longer emit ringtones for sale on the Internet…

It is not possible to manually update your AirTag. You just have to make sure that your iPhone is running at least under iOS 14.5. The tag will automatically install the newest available firmware version when in Bluetooth range of the iPhone. To find out which version is installed, go to the Objects tab of the Locate application, then select the AirTag in the list by touching its name.

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