China Cracks Apple’s AirDrop Feature
The Beijing Office of Justice said it had found a way to bypass AirDrop’s encryption, allowing it to see the content and source of data transfers.
The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice confirmed that Wangshendongjian Technology had successfully cracked the AirDrop file-sharing feature. The technology company was previously authorized by the police to research the feature to break the encryption and find individuals using Apple’s service to send inappropriate information.
Last year, AirDrop was accused of generating annoying messages to many people on subways or buses in China. The feature was also thought to be a tool for spreading information that affected the government’s reputation in the final months of 2022. However, due to the anonymous mechanism, many people continued to imitate bad behavior, making it difficult for authorities to want to stop.
According to CNN, Wangshendongjian Technology faced many technical challenges when interfering with the AirDrop security layer. The feature does not require an internet connection, so it is difficult to monitor effectively using conventional methods. The police said they had obtained the phone numbers and emails of many violators but did not disclose the details of the messages or the handling measures.
Apple representatives have not yet commented.
For many years, China has expressed concerns to Apple that AirDrop could lead to security breaches. In mid-June 2023, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) conducted a public consultation. It issued a draft regulation on near-field wireless communication technologies such as AirDrop, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi, to maintain “national security and social public interests.” On the part of Apple, since November 2022, the company has also added an AirDrop time limit for the iPhone, allowing users to optionally set to receive files from strangers for ten minutes.
According to TechCrunch, Apple’s wireless data transfer feature has had security issues on several occasions. For example, in 2021, the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany warned that a vulnerability in AirDrop could be used by hackers to steal personal information from over 1.5 billion devices. By August 2023, white hat hacker Jae Bochs used a self-made tool for just $70, taking advantage of the background running of Bluetooth LE and sending unwanted notifications to many iPhones at the Defcon security conference held in Las Vegas.