For AirTag, Apple's official website in China describes it as "a master who can help you easily track various items." AirTag uses the huge Apple ecological network for real-time positioning and reports the location to the "owner" to avoid loss and forgetting.
However, in Apple's ideal state, AirTag is used for items such as backpacks, keys, and bicycles, not for people and pets. But in practice, AirTag not only can "recover" lost items, it may also become a cheap and convenient tracker.
Android users are more easily tracked by AirTag
AirTag uses low-power Bluetooth to connect, and the ultra-wideband U1 chip is used for positioning and pointing. It can easily find the items tied to the AirTag.
If the AirTag leaves your "line of sight", it will broadcast to surrounding iPhones, Macs and other Apple devices, and upload to the cloud anonymously, so that you can see the movement trajectory and approximate location of this AirTag.
This is probably the operating principle of AirTag. The equipment is simple and the principle is not complicated, but the rule logic may be more important.
From its release to the present, AirTag's firmware has been upgraded in a round. What the new firmware (version number is 1.0.276) is not to improve performance and add new functions, but to focus on optimizing security.
In the past, AirTag left its owner and moved its location. It would only play a sound after three days to remind people around. AirTag's "three-day" timer will be reset when it is close to the "master", this loophole may be exploited by people with intentions.
AirTag's new firmware revised the "three days" period to a random reminder within 8 to 24 hours to avoid malicious tracking between intimate relationships.
In addition, when the iPhone finds that there is an unfamiliar AirTag nearby, there will be a corresponding pop-up notification, but Android devices do not have such a reminder (or warning).
Therefore, relatively speaking, Android users are more likely to be "secretly" tracked. For this, Apple is also developing an Android application that allows Android users to quickly and easily detect AirTag or accessories based on the "find" network function. The AirTag for Android application is expected to be launched by the end of the year.
AirTag is a very simple object, and Apple's purpose is also very simple, which is to use a huge "find" network to "anti-lost". But some of the rules are not thoughtful enough, and there are still some loopholes that can be exploited, making it a product that has both good and evil.
AirTags are a smart and adjustable “ecology''
In May of this year, Geoffrey A. Fowler, author of the "Washington Post" technical column, wrote an article criticizing AirTag for not doing enough "anti-tracking".
Through simulation experiments, he and his colleagues showed that it is easy for those who are interested to bypass AirTag's anti-tracking measures.
Even if Apple upgrades the AirTag firmware, the warning sound is no longer a fixed time, but the time will be reset after contacting the owner’s iPhone. Therefore, if the tracker and the tracked live together, the AirTag’s warning sound may never Will be activated.
So far, Android users are still unable to distinguish well whether there are maliciously placed AirTags around them. "This is a potential threat to 50% of Android users in the United States."
In addition, the warning sound emitted by AirTag lasts only 15 seconds, the volume is 60 decibels, and then it is silent. And Jeffrey Fowler also found that when the top of the AirTag receives pressure, the warning sound will become smaller or even disappear.
After these vulnerabilities in AirTag were discovered, in addition to blocking the loopholes in the functional rules, Apple’s vice president of marketing Kaiann Drance told the Washington Post that AirTag, which cooperates with Apple’s "Find" network, is a set of "active Threat measures" are intelligent and adjustable systems. "We can continuously improve the operating logic and rules behind them to promote this system to become better."
▲ Kaiann Drance, Apple's vice president of marketing.
And now, Apple is constantly making adjustments and improvements. The new firmware may be just the first step. After the Android application goes online, the anti-lost rules may be more stringent.
However, Bluetooth anti-lost devices like AirTag are not Apple's first, and the way to use online devices to help find is not an idea from Apple, but the special feature of AirTag is that it relies on the "ecology" that Apple has built over more than ten years.
The engineer at Apple Park knocked down a line of code and the OTA on the device will quietly change the way your device operates. The same is true for the small AirTag. This may be what Apple’s vice president of marketing Kai An said “smart, smart, Adjustable system".
Compared with traditional Bluetooth anti-lost devices such as Tile, Apple has done more to prevent tracking behavior, and Tile has not taken action to prevent tracking.
But AirTag, which has received much attention at present, shows that even Apple, which pays great attention to user privacy and device security, has failed to consider all the risks brought by new technologies and is still in the exploratory stage.
The old-fashioned double-edged sword problem
In response to AirTag’s approach to the owner’s reset of the warning time loopholes, Corbin Streett, a security expert at the US Domestic Violence Group, told Macromors, “The tracking threat pattern generated between intimate relationships is unique and Not universally. For the average company, the general concern is external threats, not the people sleeping next to you."
Moreover, this kind of incident is quite special, it is difficult to distinguish and distinguish by machine through rules, and whether it is too strict to let the little AirTag bear too much "right and wrong", after all, the technology itself is not wrong, what is wrong is the human heart.
This is like the mother box in the DC universe. In the hands of Darkside, it is the strongest weapon in the universe. In the hands of the Justice League, it can resurrect Superman.
▲ The walking supercomputer “steel bone''.
As the steel frame said, "The mother box is a modified machine. The mother box has no concepts of killing, dying, alive, or saving people. They rearrange the material according to the owner's wishes to regenerate and restore it to its original state."
Before the appearance of Bluetooth anti-lost device, there was no such discussion about "anti-tracking". And Apple, standing in the center of the world's technology, naturally has a high degree of attention. Every product is born under the spotlight, and the same is true for AirTag. Naturally, there will be endless positive and negative discussions about it.
From now on, for AirTag, Apple's earliest layout is actually the U1 chip integrated with UWB technology on the iPhone 11.
Compared with common communication technologies such as Bluetooth and WiFi in the industry, UWB technology is mainly used for short-distance precise connection and data transmission.
Previously, the iPhone equipped with the U1 chip can be quickly paired with a Mac or iPad, and data can be transferred via AirDrop. The emergence of AirTag is the landing of U1 chip and UWB technology in short-distance precise positioning technology, and the "find" network is an extension.
If predicted, the U1 chip, UWB technology, AirTag, and the current spatial audio are all Apple's layout in the AR field. This should be one of Apple's goals for launching AirTag.
In fact, before the advent of AirTag, if you want to track maliciously, you can also buy GPS and LTE-based trackers on Amazon. After the emergence of AirTag, there is nothing more than an additional channel for these interested people.
▲ GPS tracker on Amazon.
Fire can start a prairie fire, or it can bring warmth. The same is true for AirTag. In some people, AirTag may be a very good tool for finding objects, while in others, AirTag is a tracker.
Even if Apple continues to upgrade and improve the rules, they can always find loopholes in these rules to conduct illegal actions.
It's just that when Apple releases AirTag, if it can simultaneously release an application for the Android platform to cater for more user groups, it may be more humane and thoughtful.
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