AirDrop is an excellent feature that lets Apple devices easily exchange files. However, its use by creeps to distribute explicit photos has led to several instances of subway riders being sent inappropriate content or even being sexually exploited by them.
Apple recently issued an update for iOS that alters how AirDrop settings are managed, no longer permitting people to keep them set permanently to “Everyone”.
What is AirDrop?
AirDrop is Apple’s wireless file-sharing feature that enables you to send documents, photos, videos and almost anything else between iOS and Mac devices wirelessly. This remarkable technology enables data transmission without WiFi or cell service access – even long distance transmission is possible as long as both devices can physically connect.
AirDrop may be an easy way to share files quickly among friends, but it could also pose serious privacy risks. Security researchers recently identified a flaw that allows anyone within Bluetooth range to steal data from devices using AirDrop enabled features – including your email address and phone number. In short, anyone could potentially use AirDrop as a way of stalking you!
Though it can be unnerving to consider, public spaces like airports or cafes where information may be shared via AirDrop or wifi sharing require extra caution in terms of how we share data through AirDrop or wifi sharing features. There are ways you can reduce exposure; to be extra safe you could opt to turn off both AirDrop and wifi sharing altogether for added protection.
Choose “Go > AirDrop” in the Finder menu bar, or by selecting its icon in a sidebar of a Finder window. Once selected, choose between CONTACTS ONLY, EVERYONE or OFF. When set on CONTACTS ONLY mode only those in your address book can see what’s on your iPhone; when select EVERYONE mode all Bluetooth range can view what’s inside.
If your iPhone is set to OFF, other iOS devices cannot discover it. You can also choose NOT OVERCROWD CONTROL and disable its ability to automatically receive AirDrop files – this way it prevents strangers from sending unsolicited files without restricting you from manually sharing content with specific recipients.
Apple recently implemented changes to AirDrop in China following its usage by protestors to spread anti-government messages. As part of iOS 16.2 Release Candidate for World, this change limits “Everyone” access for 10 minutes at a time before needing manual access for turn off/on.
How do I turn it off?
AirDrop can be set to ‘Everyone,’ meaning that anyone with an iPhone can send you pictures, documents or other files using AirDrop. Unfortunately, perverts have taken to using it to send inappropriate photos to commuters while riding subway trains – in response to this problem Apple recently implemented changes for China that limits “Everyone” setting to only working for 10 minutes before turning it off – now being extended globally across iOS devices.
AirDrop can make it more difficult for creeps to invade your privacy, yet this method alone cannot ensure security against cyber-flashers and sickos. Therefore, to further secure yourself against these potential dangers it’s wise to disable WiFi and Bluetooth as this prevents your phone from automatically connecting with networks or accessories, saving battery power in the process.
Why do I need to turn it off?
If you don’t wish for your data or photos to be shared with strangers, AirDrop should be turned off. Users who leave their settings set to “Everyone” could become vulnerable to perverts using it to share explicit images and videos – something especially likely if recipients don’t know they have given access.
Apple recently issued an iOS update in China which limits how long “Everyone” settings can remain active, in an effort to limit unwanted messages transmitted via AirDrop. Students had been using it to share nudes while women received explicit images through it without consent.
AirDrop should also be disabled if you’re concerned that someone might use it to spy on you, including neighbors and acquaintances as well as parents wishing not to allow their children use. You should also keep AirDrop off if someone attempts to hack your iPhone in order to gain access to private information or photos stored therein.
On an iPhone 5 or later, to disable AirDrop simply swipe up on the Control Center to access it or through Settings app’s General section – either way will give access to Location Services that send your GPS data back to Apple for building crowd-sourced maps of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers nearby; plus you can switch off Bluetooth which drains a great deal of battery power.
After selecting “Do Not Download,” when prompted, you can prevent apps from auto-downloading in the background and save yourself battery drainage by manually updating them instead. However, this requires manually updating apps, but can save significant battery drain.
If you’re still uncertain whether or not to disable Bluetooth and WiFi on your iPhone, it would be wise to seek professional advice. According to Motherboard, even though the blue buttons in Control Center appear to turn these features off, they actually only disconnect you from wireless networks and accessories rather than actually turning them off.
How do I turn it back on?
Apple recently unrolled a beta of iOS 16.2 in China that restricted AirDrop for 10 minutes at a time for everyone, before changing back to ‘Contacts Only.’ This move came after it became evident that antigovernment protestors were abusing this file-sharing feature to send subway riders offensive content such as sexual images.
Now, a release candidate version of iOS update is being rolled out worldwide with time limits applied to AirDrop for all iPhone users – effectively limiting its ability to be used online to harass or bully others, though they could still do this offline as well.
Another handy feature in this new operating system is when you swipe up on your device’s screen, a menu will pop up with different settings for WiFi and Bluetooth. However, as Motherboard reports, security researchers have discovered that pressing these buttons only temporarily disconnects you from networks and accessories; they don’t shut them off permanently.
As the best way to prevent this from happening is to ensure that AirDrop is set to “Contacts Only”, or switch off Bluetooth altogether in order to protect yourself from strangers stealing your information and sending out unwelcome images on public transportation.