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Security & privacy

Change this iPhone setting now! Simple fix protects you from privacy bug

There’s no denying Apple’s popularity. Putting a small “i” in front of a product denotes a clever gadget that transcends utility to become a part of pop culture. The iPhone is among the bestselling smartphones on the planet, while tablets from all makes are sometimes referred to as iPads.

When Apple announces a new product, it’s an event. Last week, the company put on a show that made headlines across the tech industry. Tap or click here to read about the latest Apple products.

Cleverly designed, smart and fashionable, but not infallible. Like any tech product, Apple’s devices have their flaws. A recent report exposed a security risk associated with a common iPhone feature. Read on for more details.

Don’t AirDrop your information

Apple’s AirDrop function makes it easier to send and receive photos, videos, documents and more between Apple devices. Go to Settings > General > Airdrop to toggle it off or on for contacts or everyone. The sender and receiver(s) need to be in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi range to share.

Have an image to share but can’t find it in your phone’s cluttered photo album? Tap or click here for tips on finding any photo quickly.

Though a useful tool, it seems AirDrop comes with risk. Security researchers from the Technische Universitat Darmstadt in Germany have discovered that hackers can find phone numbers and email addresses for nearby AirDrop users, thanks to a flaw.

AirDrop is set to Contacts Only by default. Apple uses hashing to encrypt the data exchanged between known contacts, but it turns out that this can be breached with brute force attacks. A nearby hacker with their own Wi-Fi-equipped iOS device can open AirDrop and steal information.

Did Apple know?

The researchers claim they informed Apple about the AirDrop vulnerability two years ago through “responsible disclosure.” They say that Apple did not respond or take any action to remedy the problem.

Thus more than 1.5 billion iOS users are at risk of this attack. Hackers don’t just target Apple devices, of course. They are also taking advantage of the pandemic.

Protect yourself in one step

The researchers put together “PrivateDrop” as a replacement for AirDrop. Their solution uses cryptographic protocols rather than hash values to authenticate users. But until Apple addresses the flaw, your device is not protected.

The only way to avoid having your phone number and email address exposed to strangers is to turn off AirDrop and avoid opening the sharing menu. To disable Airdrop, open Settings > General > AirDrop and select Receiving Off.

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