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Apple AirTags: Experts Propose Solution to Enhance Privacy

The use of AirTags has brought forth various privacy concerns. By the end of 2022, it surfaced two women had filed complaints against Apple after their ex-partners had spied on them using this accessory. Various methods exist to detect stalking. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of California have devised a solution to enhance the security of these Cupertino-made tracking devices.

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AirTags: Vulnerable on Privacy Front

To recap, AirTags rely on the encrypted and anonymous network called “Find My,” comprised of hundreds of millions of Apple devices worldwide. They interact via Bluetooth, indicating their positions to iCloud. The data solely belongs to the user, ensuring their privacy. However, malicious individuals (thieves, jealous partners, etc.) have frequently misused this Apple-conceived device.

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Hence, multiple researchers have devised a cryptographic solution that, in their view, could prevent tracking of individuals by ill-intentioned users leveraging an AirTag. Currently, the accessory emits a sound after a certain period when distanced from its owner. The iPhone even alerts the owner to this situation. Yet, this doesn’t deter stalkers who exploit this time lapse to act.

Apple AirTags Experts Propose Solution to Enhance Privacy (1)

Researchers Advocate for Secret Sharing

The researchers term their cryptographic solution “secret sharing,” safeguarding confidential information, accessible only when specific conditions are met. For AirTags, this concerns the true static identity hidden beneath the frequently changing public identifier. They make this alteration for privacy reasons.

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In simpler terms, it’s akin to the accessory donning a constantly changing mask to avoid recognition—the public identifier. Only when specific conditions are met does it disclose the true static identity, ensuring the user’s confidentiality and security. This solution would notably impede malicious tracking of an AirTag over time. It achieves this by constantly changing the public identifier, making it lose its trail.

Experts don’t stop at suggesting secret sharing. They also advocate for ‘error-correcting code,’ a technique to maintain signal quality by separating useful data from noise, even amid errors or interference.

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