Have you heard of Apple AirTags? Apple announced the launch of their new product in April 2021, after postponing the product for a year due to COVID. These tags are designed to assist us finding misplaced items through the Find My app. How convenient! As with everything that brings us more convenience, there is usually a price we are paying with our data. Let’s explore this more.
What are AirTags?
An AirTag is a small circular device that can be attached to items such as car keys or your wallet. You can attach it to anything you want really; you just need to connect the device to your Apple ID. You can connect a maximum of 16 AirTags to a single Apple ID account.
How do they work?
To set up your AirTag, you will need to connect it to your Apple ID. Once connected, you can use the Find My app to see the location of your AirTags. AirTags don’t have any GPS technology. They work by ‘pinging’ the closest Bluetooth device. If you have an iPhone with Bluetooth turned on, your phone is “listening” for AirTags.
AirTags can only work by tapping into the Apple network. Every tag has a unique identifier using Bluetooth. Any compatible Apple device within range of the tag will relay the AirTag’s information to Apple’s servers. Then, the owner of the AirTag can use the Find My app to locate their missing item.
So essentially, everyone who has an iPhone or Apple product with Bluetooth turned on, is looking for AirTags to report the data back to the Apple network! Apple has assured users that the whole process is anonymous and encrypted, to protect privacy.
When looking for your misplaced item, you can make your AirTag make a sound, so you just need to follow the noise until you find it. If you still can’t find it, you can use Precision Finding. Precision Finding shows the distance and direction your AirTag is located on your phone. This is using Ultra Wideband technology. Precision Finding technology is compatible with iPhones 11 and 12.
What is concerning for IT professionals is the amount of devices involved. The data that is shared with the Apple network is the AirTag ID and location. However, usually the more devices involved in a network, increase the risk of a cyber-incident.
Another concern is the potential use of the AirTags for stalking. Apple has assured that they have implemented various safeguard to identify and prevent AirTags to be used for stalking. They have set up an alert if they think the AirTag is accompanying someone who is not the AirTag owner. The victim will receive an alert if they have an iPhone. The AirTag even has an audio alert as well for users who don’t have an iPhone, or can’t find the tag.
New tracking technology such as Apple AirTags can be an easy and convenient solution to find misplaced items. Just remember, convenience comes with a price, which is usually our privacy and data. Apple has put in place a number of safeguards to protect the privacy of users. Before placing these tracking devices on your items, keep in mind that the whole Apple network will pick up ‘pings’ and receive location and AirTag ID of your items.