Apple's Airdrop App Being Used For Smartphone Sex Crimes


Apple's Airdrop App Being Used For Smartphone Sex Crimes

Perverts have taken to using Apple Inc.’s Airdrop feature to flash themselves on unsuspecting victims’ smartphones. British police report they are investigating several cases where rail commuters received indecent images on their phones as they traveled to and from work on busy commuter trains.

Gill Murray, of the British Transport Police (BTP), said that while cyberflashing was new it was still a crime and she urged victims to report all incidents to police.

One victim, Ms Crighton-Smith, told police she was cyber flashed while travelling to work on a train in south London.

"I had Airdrop switched on because I had been using it previously to send photos to another iPhone user - and a picture appeared on the screen of a man's penis, which I was quite shocked by. So, I declined the image, instinctively, and another image appeared, at which point I realized someone nearby must be sending them, and that concerned me. I felt violated, it was a very unpleasant thing to have forced upon my screen," she said

Airdrop is an app specific to Apple’s Mac and iOS devices. It uses wi-fi and Bluetooth to transfer items to other devices like iPhones. The app has default settings for "contacts only" but settings can be changed to "everyone", meaning anyone in range can send to users of the app.

"I was also worried about who else might have been a recipient, it might have been a child, someone more vulnerable than me. My name on Airdrop says Lorraine so they knew they were sending it to a woman. The images were of a sexual nature and it was distressing."

Ms Crighton-Smith immediately used the same phone she had been flashed on to call the British Transport Police as she was worried about the perpetrator's motives.

"What's the next stage from sending a naked photograph to a stranger, what happens next, was he getting any sort of gratification from it?" she asked.

Although investigating the incidents Supt Gill Murray said because Ms Crighton-Smith had not "accepted" the penis photos, police had no technological evidence to work on.

Supt Murray said the police had dealt with similar cases involving Bluetooth but the Airdrops incidents are "new to us".

"Receiving an indecent image from someone you don't know must be very distressing and something we would take very serious --- our advice would be to remain calm, retain the image and report the matter to police as soon as possible," she said.

"We have a dedicated Cyber Crime Unit who can analyse mobile phones and track data transfers back to suspects' devices. By linking this to physical evidence, such as CCTV footage or witness statements, we can catch offenders and bring them to justice through the courts."

Cybersecurity consultant Ken Munro of Pentest Partners said "This means that typically in a train carriage, or tube carriage, you can see other devices.That's what's happened in this particular case, someone has enabled everyone and then hasn't then set it back. As a result anyone within wi-fi or Bluetooth range can send something to you that's quite horrible."

Munro said Apple could help by making Airdrop return to the "contacts only" default setting if it had not been used for a specified amount of time.

Apple has declined to comment as of yet.

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