If there is one thing that is certain, if there is a useful technology invented that is supposed to benefit us, there is a corresponding negative usage that can and will be exploited. After the initial dopamine rush had worn off around Apple’s AirTags, people started waking up to the negative implications of a small, easy-to-conceal, wireless tracking device that utilizes one of the largest global networks in the world. Apple’s “Find My…” network is too useful to not be exploited, and the less ethical are already doing so.
What this means for you
Apple’s AirTags were initially created to track items that could be easily lost or stolen and ostensibly were made inconspicuous so that they weren’t unsightly and so thieves couldn’t easily find and discard the trackers. Once reports started flowing in of the “less orthodox” usage of AirTags, Apple immediately tried to get out in front of the problem by letting everyone know that AirTags themselves have unique, embedded serial numbers and their usage is tied to an Apple account – information they will surrender to law enforcement in a criminal investigation. But they glossed over something that more inventive hackers latched onto – what’s to stop someone from creating a “cloned” AirTag that simply bypasses Apple’s security measures? At the moment, nothing. Someone has already done so, and you can assume that Pandora’s box is not going to be closed any time soon without significant intervention from Apple.
Until that happens, you should get caught up on Apple’s lengthy advice on detecting and finding unwanted trackers. The article goes into great detail for Apple device users, so if you are an iPhone user, finding an unwanted Apple-made AirTag should be pretty straightforward (if not a wee bit unsettling). For the rest of us using Android devices, Apple has released an app called Tracker Detect (watch out for copy-cat apps!) that has to be activated manually. Not nearly as useful as its iOS counterpart, but at least they tried. If you’d like something a bit more robust and not funded by Apple, you can try AirGuard which was developed by a research team out of German university TU Darmstadt. I’ve tried both apps and while they appear to do no harm (other than possibly drain my battery faster), I can’t really verify that they work, as I apparently don’t have any unwanted trackers near me. Yay? Either way, if you suspect you are being digitally stalked, make sure you share your suspicions with your loved ones and authorities and get familiar with this site and its resources immediately!
Image by Thomas Wolter from Pixabay