Apple’s AirTag trackers are handy for keeping track of your keys, backpack, and luggage, but they’re also reportedly being used for more nefarious purposes – like tracking people and cars without their knowledge.
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“This is digital tracking media, but it can have physical security implications,” started Dr. Chris Pierson, CEO of BlackCloak, a company that helps protect people from cybercrimes.
“They’re easily affordable, easily joined [and] easily tracked and monitored. [They have] really created more of an escalation in terms of the amount of tracking that may be going on,” said Pierson.
The circular gadgets are about the size of a coin and broadcast a signal that can be picked up by nearly a billion Apple devices participating in Apple’s Find My network. These signals are translated into a GPS location and displayed on a map.
“Really the power is in the simplification of that unit and the power of the network behind it,” added Pierson.
Owners can keep track of where their AirTags are using the Find My App.
The trouble starts when these tiny trackers turn up unwanted, like on your person, in your bag or attached to your car.
If an unknown AirTag is traveling with you, your iPhone is supposed to notify you and the AirTag will begin to chirp, but this process can take a few hours or days. By that time, someone might already have a good idea of where you have been and where you go.
If you have an Android phone, you won’t get a notification, but you can download Apple’s free app called Tracker Detect. It can scan for unknown AirTags nearby.
You can also tap any AirTag with an NFC-enabled phone to bring up owner information, including the serial number, which can be reported to police.
To disable an AirTag instantly, you can take the battery out of it by firmly pressing both sides and twisting counterclockwise.
Pierson’s number one personal safety tip: Don’t go home with an unknown AirTag. Disable it immediately if it’s safe to do so or proceed straight to a police station with it.
Part of AirTag’s appeal: the devices are inexpensive by tracking standards, just $29 each. Plus, the replaceable battery lasts over a year. Apple has built the perfect tracking device.
“This is not an Apple problem… this is a societal problem,” Pierson concluded.