Cyber-flashing is the latest form of cyber-crime to rear its ugly head. So far only one case has been reported, but it’s important that Apple users take steps to protect themselves as it uses the AirDrop feature that’s available on iOS devices and Macs. It’s really a nice feature for those who want to easily share files or images with their own devices, but cyber-flashing puts a very nefarious use to it.
What is cyber-flashing?
A woman in London told police that while she was riding on a train, someone shared an unsolicited, illicit photo with her via AirDrop. According to The BBC, Lorraine Crighton-Smith said someone she doesn’t know sent her two photos of a penis.
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She felt “violated” and was concerned about who else the person may have sent the photos to as it’s possible children may have received the photos or may become victims of this type of crime in the future if people are not made aware of it. The British Transport Police said they’ve never heard of this sort of crime before and have dubbed it “cyber-flashing.”
How AirDrop works
Crighton-Smith said at the time she received the images, she was on a train in South London and had AirDrop turned on because she had been using it to send photos to another iPhone user. AirDrop allows users of Apple products to share files with other Apple devices that are nearby, which means the person who sent the images to her had to have been nearby, possibly on the very same train.
AirDrop works over Bluetooth between devices that are no more than approximately 10 meters away from each other. Although users have the option to reject a file that’s being shared with them, it still shows an uncensored preview of the image that’s being sent.
How to protect yourself from cyber-flashing
Perhaps one of the most disturbing things about cyber-flashing is the fact that the ability to do it is not the result of a bug or vulnerability in Apple products which can be patched. It uses an actual feature provided by Apple for the ease of its users. There is a way to protect yourself, however.
In order to protect yourself and your children against cyber-flashing, just change the AirDrop setting on your Apple devices to “Off” or “Contacts Only.” While so far there has been just this one isolated case of cyber-flashing, it seems likely other people may try it. If it becomes a big problem, perhaps Apple could be persuaded to warn users not to accept files from strangers over AirDrop and, preferably, get rid of the uncensored preview of the files being sent. Another thing that would help is to put the default setting on AirDrop to “Contacts Only.”