An AirDrop Safety Flaw Can Reveal Your Private Data

Researchers claim that Apple's AirDrop not only shares files, but also shares your email address and phone number.

Researchers claim that nearly 1.5 billion users are at risk of their email addresses and phone numbers being exposed to strangers through Apple's AirDrop. However, Apple has not yet confirmed anything wrong with the file sharing feature.

AirDrop may share more than just your files

AirDrop is one of the most popular features used by many iPhone, iPad, and Mac users around the world.

With the help of this service, you can share virtually any file. Whether it's a picture, video, presentation, or document, Apple users can send it from one device to another through this built-in file sharing tool.

Related Topics: How to Enable AirDrop on Your Mac and iPhone

However, it turns out that, according to researchers, AirDrop isn't as safe as everyone thinks.

As stated in a research report, researchers at the Technical University of Darmstadt have discovered an AirDrop data protection leak that puts personal information at risk when files are exchanged between Apple devices. The researchers claim:

As an attacker, it is possible to find out the phone numbers and email addresses of AirDrop users – even as complete strangers. All you need is a Wi-Fi enabled device and physical proximity to a target, which will initiate the discovery process by opening the shared area on an iOS or macOS device. The identified problems are based on the use of hash functions from Apple to "obfuscate" the telephone numbers and e-mail addresses were exchanged during the identification process.

With AirDrop enabled on your device, anyone nearby can find your phone number and email address. And worst of all, you don't even have to be the initiator of the file transfer.

Related: AirDrop Not Working? Fix it quickly with these tips

According to the researchers, it is still possible for someone to see your personal information even if you allow your device to connect to your contact list to share files through AirDrop.

There may be a solution to the AirDrop security error

The same researchers at TU Darmstadt who discovered this AirDrop problem have already found a possible solution called PrivateDrop. But they haven't released many details about it yet.

PrivateDrop is based on "optimized cryptographic intersection protocols for private groups that can securely carry out the contact detection process between two users without exchanging vulnerable hash values".

Maybe Apple will fix the problem now

This is not the first time this AirDrop issue has been reported. According to reports, the German researchers informed Apple about the problem as early as May 2019. However, the Cupertino-based company has not yet realized the problem. Let alone fix it.

Until Apple comes out with a solution to the AirDrop error, it is recommended that you leave this tool disabled when not in use. You can do this by clicking Settings> General> AirDrop> Receive off.

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About the author

Romana Levko
(57 articles published)

Romana is a freelance writer with a keen interest in anything technology related. She specializes in creating instructions, tips and detailed explanations for everything to do with iOS. Her main focus is on the iPhone, but she also knows a thing or two about the MacBook, Apple Watch, and AirPods.

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By Romana Levko

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