As teenagers increasingly use AirDrop to mass share images, adults are being caught in the crossfire.
Whereas most adults will share files through AirDrop with just one other person, teens have started looking for large groups of people and dropping files to any open device within range. They generally name their phones something anonymous or funny so that those receiving files are not sure where the dropped file originated.
AirDrop is a feature on Apple devices that allow users to share their files with other devices within a 30-foot radius. Devices with AirDrop enabled use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to exchange files with anyone who also has AirDrop enabled, whether or not that person is in their contacts.
If you accidentally leave your AirDrop settings open and a group of teenagers are present, you will likely be inundated with AirDropped memes, selfies, and notes. Often, these images are funny or playful, but some teens will send nude photos of themselves or others, which is illegal child pornography if the image is of a minor. Sometimes, teens will AirDrop an unsuspecting user's device repeatedly in order to make it crash.
Because AirDrop is a feature, not an app, there is no way to kick off users for inappropriate content. Those who send illegal content cannot be banned and could do it again. Taylor Lorenz "When Grown-Ups Get Caught in
Teens' AirDrop Crossfire" theatlantic.com (Jun. 05, 2019).
Recently, a vulnerability in AirDrop allowed cybercriminals within range of someone with AirDrop enabled to install an infected app undetected onto his or her device.
Some users admit to opening their AirDrop intentionally in large crowds to see what funny content they received. This is what cybercriminals want you to do - select links you believe are safe when, in fact, they are corrupted.
In order to protect yourself and your device, disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when not in use. If you have an Apple device, turn off AirDrop when you are not actively sharing files that you know are safe. Limit AirDrop sharing to "Contacts Only."
Never download a file, whether through AirDrop, email, or other electronic channel, unless you are certain you know what the file is. Even if you know the sender, a cybercriminal could have hacked his or her account or device and be using it to send malware to that person's contacts.