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China claims it can now bypass AirDrop encryption and identify senders

The effort is an attempt to eliminate undesirable content.
By
January 9, 2024
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Aamir Siddiqui / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • A Chinese state-backed institution in Beijing claims it has cracked Apple AirDrop’s encryption.
  • The organization says the technique it created allows them to identify the phone numbers and emails of senders who share AirDrop content.
  • The discovery is part of an effort to eliminate undesirable content.

Apple’s AirDrop is a popular iOS feature that allows Apple device owners to quickly share things like documents, images, and more. All a user has to do is be close to another device and have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and AirDrop enabled to share the file securely through end-to-end encryption. However, China is saying that it has found a way to bypass that encryption to identify users.

According to a report from Bloomberg, a Chinese state-backed organization in Beijing says it has discovered a way to identify AirDrop users who send messages. The technique reportedly allows the institution to see the phone numbers and email addresses of these senders.

The discovery is part of an effort in China to eliminate content it deems undesirable. For example, AirDrop was widely used by activists to share pro-democracy content during the protests in Hong Kong in 2019. The agency claims that police have used the technique to identify multiple suspects. However, the outlet says the police have not disclosed if anyone has been arrested.

The technique “improves the efficiency and accuracy of case-solving and prevents the spread of inappropriate remarks as well as potential bad influences,” according to the agency. It remains to be seen how Apple will react to the news of AirDrop possibly being cracked. The publication states that an Apple representative did not respond to requests for comment.