How to secure AirDrop on your iPhone to prevent unwanted photos on the subway

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2017
Reports have circulated that miscreants are sending unsolicited, inappropriate images to people in public venues. While Apple's default settings prevent this, AppleInsider shows you how to check the setting, and lock it down, if you've changed it for some reason.




Apple's AirDrop was introduced as a way to rapidly send pictures and other files from your iPhone to a Mac or to another iPhone rapidly, and without much fuss. While there is much hand-wringing about how well the feature works and what it is capable of, if it is left unsecured, it can possibly be a problem.

Apple's default setting for the feature is to allow only contacts to send files and images, preventing the problem in the first place. Here's how to check it, and how to modify the settings to limit who can send you anatomy shots on the subway.

Invoke the Control Center by swiping up on your iPhone. On iOS 10, the AirDrop icon is on the main page.

Tap on the AirDrop icon, and it will pull up the allowable senders dialog. You can open up AirDrop to all recipients, limit it to Contacts only, or turn off the feature entirely.



On iOS 11, the best way to toggle the allowed senders or to turn off the feature is in Settings. In the Settings menu, tap General, then tap AirDrop to invoke the settings pane to apply limitations on recipients.



AppleInsider has reached out to local law enforcement for what they suggest. Fairfax County Police in the Washington D.C. area suggests that users turn off the feature when not in use. Should a picture be received while the feature is on, we were told that users should report any details about the time, date, and location to law enforcement as quickly as possible.

Some advice about getting unsolicited images through AirDrop is to not delete them. Rather, one security consultant suggests that users in receipt of such images save the picture, and report it to police -- however, identifying the sender might prove problematic, depending on the focus of the image and details shared about user names in AirDrop.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    plovellplovell Posts: 800member
    In my experience, even if it's set to "Everyone", you're prompted "Accept" or "Decline" when someone tries to send. Photos and files don't just appear - you have to accept them.
    The_Martini_CatronnlostkiwiStrangeDaysmacky the mackyRayz2016jony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 24
    plovellplovell Posts: 800member
    p.s. one convenient exception is if you're sending to another device signed in with the same AppleID. Then they do just appear on the target. So I can drop stuff from my iPhone to MBP simply and easily.
    The_Martini_CatRayz2016
  • Reply 3 of 24
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,604administrator
    plovell said:
    In my experience, even if it's set to "Everyone", you're prompted "Accept" or "Decline" when someone tries to send. Photos and files don't just appear - you have to accept them.
    Yes, but you still get a thumbnail of the offending picture. You get to see it, whether or not you like it.
    The_Martini_CatchiaronnlostkiwiRayz2016jony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 24
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Why would you leave AirDrop on when you’re not using it? Uses bluetooth; wastes battery.
    SpamSandwichbaconstangjony0
  • Reply 5 of 24
    bill42bill42 Posts: 129member
    Dammit, they're onto me!!!
    razorpit
  • Reply 6 of 24
    mtbnutmtbnut Posts: 195member
    My favorite prank is to play random videos on the various TVs at my company that have AirPlay on (or an Apple TV connected to them). Suckers don't have the Password protection on, so most of the displays in various conference rooms are constantly RickRolled.
    watto_cobraapple_evo
  • Reply 7 of 24
    plovell said:
    In my experience, even if it's set to "Everyone", you're prompted "Accept" or "Decline" when someone tries to send. Photos and files don't just appear - you have to accept them.
    Yes, but you still get a thumbnail of the offending picture. You get to see it, whether or not you like it.
    And I imagine it isn't Victoria's Secret models who are using AirDrop to send their own, inappropriate photos, either.  'Cause who would be complaining?!? (definitely someone)

    Also, the article mentions it would be problematic to identify the sender. I realize that it's different for everyone but if I was doing that I wouldn't be sending photos of myself, I'd just find some random shot from the internet.  Good luck identifying me as the sender.
  • Reply 8 of 24
    Why would you leave AirDrop on when you’re not using it? Uses bluetooth; wastes battery.
    I haven't recognized any of the batteries in my devices being drained because of the feature always being on.
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 24
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,865member
    Why would you leave AirDrop on when you’re not using it? Uses bluetooth; wastes battery.
    I haven't recognized any of the batteries in my devices being drained because of the feature always being on.
    Bluetooth stays on for my Watch. 
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 24
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,151member
    Why would you leave AirDrop on when you’re not using it? Uses bluetooth; wastes battery.
    Because some of us don't like turning a feature on and off every single time we want to use it. Defeats the purpose, which is speed and simplicity. Same reason why I don't turn on/off bluetooth and wifi every time I use my watch, headphones, or leave the house. Also, from my experience leaving bluetooth on has a negligible and almost existent effect on battery life.
    StrangeDaysbonobobwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 24
    On iOS 11 you can still access air drop settings via control centre, requires 3D Touch. Press on the Bluetooth icon to activate 3D Touch. A new screen opens with screen where you can access the airdrop settings. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 24
    This should be called "AirBombing" 😁
    razorpit
  • Reply 13 of 24
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,260member
    Pilots take note ;)
  • Reply 14 of 24
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,630member
    AppleInsider has reached out to local law enforcement for what they suggest. Fairfax County Police in the Washington D.C. area suggests that users turn off the feature when not in use. Should a picture be received while the feature is on, we were told that users should report any details about the time, date, and location to law enforcement as quickly as possible.
    That would dumb. There is no reason to turn it off if the aim is to avoid getting pics from random, just leave it at the default of Contacts Only. 

    Personally I leave it on Everyone — I have to have my phone active to receive an AD request, and then I’d have to accept it. Not difficult stuff. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 24
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,630member

    Why would you leave AirDrop on when you’re not using it? Uses bluetooth; wastes battery.
    How much battery? I believe the amount it uses just being available is completely negligible. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 24
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,604administrator
    veloci said:
    On iOS 11 you can still access air drop settings via control centre, requires 3D Touch. Press on the Bluetooth icon to activate 3D Touch. A new screen opens with screen where you can access the airdrop settings. 
    True enough - and I appreciate the addition.

    However, not every device that supports iOS 11 has Force Touch. This solution is universal.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 24
    mavismavis Posts: 22member
    veloci said:
    On iOS 11 you can still access air drop settings via control centre, requires 3D Touch. Press on the Bluetooth icon to activate 3D Touch. A new screen opens with screen where you can access the airdrop settings. 
    True enough - and I appreciate the addition.

    However, not every device that supports iOS 11 has Force Touch. This solution is universal.
    So a long touch, then (works on my iPad). Still MUCH easier than going into sub menus in Settings. 
  • Reply 18 of 24
    AppleInsider has reached out to local law enforcement for what they suggest. Fairfax County Police in the Washington D.C. area suggests that users turn off the feature when not in use. Should a picture be received while the feature is on, we were told that users should report any details about the time, date, and location to law enforcement as quickly as possible.
    Personally I leave it on Everyone — I have to have my phone active to receive an AD request, and then I’d have to accept it. Not difficult stuff. 
    I leave it on Everyone, as well. I've found that if I put it on Contacts Only I can't be seen by others or see others even if they're in my Contacts. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 24
    AppleInsider has reached out to local law enforcement for what they suggest. Fairfax County Police in the Washington D.C. area suggests that users turn off the feature when not in use. Should a picture be received while the feature is on, we were told that users should report any details about the time, date, and location to law enforcement as quickly as possible.
    Personally I leave it on Everyone — I have to have my phone active to receive an AD request, and then I’d have to accept it. Not difficult stuff. 
    I leave it on Everyone, as well. I've found that if I put it on Contacts Only I can't be seen by others or see others even if they're in my Contacts. 
    Yeah. And being a social creature who often meets new people and takes pictures with them, I find using AD with non-Contacts is a fairly common use case. I'd hate to have to dick around with a setting every time. Not a huge deal but just one less thing to worry about. 
    razorpitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 24
    This is a case of stupid people doing stupid things. The image metadata is maintained during AirDrop, some information is also kept in your device's logs for AirDrops. It would be trivial to include more overtly identifying information from an AirDrop recipient (whether or not the image was accepted by the user.) In the meantime the simplest solution is to switch AirDrop to contacts only (i.e the default setting), since that solves the problem and will let you receive airdrops in most settings.
    watto_cobra
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