All it takes is a little knowledge, and a little creativity, to apparently turn the new Apple AirTags into a spy gadget straight out of a James Bond movie. Motherboard has reported how several hackers, some acting out of sheer curiosity, managed to crack open Apple’s new device and completely change its purpose.
In some examples, the hackers have even shown how AirTags could be turned into potentially malicious devices - although there’s no evidence of such tactics being used in the wild just yet.
AirTags are basically Apple buttons that users can attach to different items and track their movement. The devices were unveiled earlier this year after months of speculation, and could be a huge potential earner for Apple.
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Publishing a YouTube video on his methods, hardware researcher Colin O'Flynn showed how he jailbroke the AirTag and had it send a malicious URL to an iPhone.
"The AirTags ship in a state where you can not access the internal processor/microcontroller, because during manufacturing they locked the debug interfaces," another researcher, Thomas Roth, revealed. "I managed to re-activate the debug interface and dump the firmware from the AirTag."
AirTags as a communications gadget
In separate research, Fabian Bräunlein of Positive Security managed to broadcast arbitrary data to nearby Apple devices via the Find My protocol. In a blog post, Bräunlein said broadcasting arbitrary data was made possible by spoofing many AirTags, and encoding data in which AirTag was active. He then made the device upload the data as it reported on its location.
Bräunlein believes this approach could be used to turn the device into a communications gadget.
"I was curious whether Find My's Offline Finding network could be (ab)used to upload arbitrary data to the internet, from devices that are not connected to WiFi or mobile internet," Bräunlein told Motherboard.
Although he praised Apple’s work, saying it was “cryptographically well designed," he added that the company could “limit the misuse potential” through design changes.
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