The Chinese government claims to have succeeded in finding a way to identify message senders via Apple’s AirDrop feature.

According to the Chinese government, they took this step as part of their efforts to silence the spread of content considered illegal, as quoted by Techviral from Time, Wednesday (10/1/2024).

It is an institute in Beijing, China, that has succeeded in developing a technique to break into encrypted device records on the iPhone. This note contains identification in the form of email and number from the sender of the AirDrop content.

Chinese police have succeeded in identifying a number of suspects using this method, without saying whether these suspects have been arrested or not.

“This increases the efficiency and accuracy of solving cases and avoids the spread of inappropriate content as well as the potential negative effects it causes,” wrote the Chinese government.

For your information, AirDrop is an iPhone feature that activists in various countries usually use to spread their messages. This feature requires a Bluetooth connection, so it requires the user to be in a relatively close position.

One example of its application was during the massive demonstrations in Hong Kong in 2019. Via AirDrop, users can send data in the form of images, documents or videos between Apple devices.

China Controls Apple

AirDrop itself has actually been restricted in China since 2022, precisely after the service was used by demonstrators to distribute images to fellow iPhone users. So far, Apple has not issued a statement regarding the Chinese government breaking AirDrop encryption.

In fact, in 2021, there was a report by security researchers from the Secure Mobile Networking Lab (SEEMOO) and the Cryptography and Privacy Engineering Group (ENCYPTO) at Darmstadt Technical University, Germany, which stated that there was a weakness in the AirDrop feature, namely that it could expose the user’s number and email.

Researchers claim to have reported Apple about the flaw in May 2019. However, Apple is said to have never responded.

“It is possible for hackers to learn the phone numbers and email addresses of AirDrop users. All they need is a Wi-Fi-enabled device and physical proximity to the target who starts the discovery process by opening the sharing panel on the iOS or macOS device,” quoted a Darmstadt Technical University press release.

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