ST. LOUIS — Apple’s newest product, the Apple AirTags, have been making headlines since the launch.
People can stick the little plastic discs onto everyday items to track things you may commonly lose – like your keys.
But the worry is that bad actors could be using the tags to track you.
5 On Your Side’s Sydney Stallworth talked to tech experts about the risks and how you can protect yourself.
Nationally recognized model, Brooks Nader, shared that she had a scary experience after someone planted an Apple AirTag on her person without her knowledge.
"When I was almost home, I got this notification on my home screen that popped up saying that I was being tracked and I had been for a while now... which is basically when I knew something wasn't right,” Nader said in an interview shared with NBC.
People have taken to social media to share their stories, finding Apple Air tags slipped into their coats, onto their cars and in bags.
We met with Brad Butler, chief technology officer with Acropolis Tech.
“As any new technology comes out, there are going to be people that will misuse it or use it for nefarious purposes,” Butler said.
Tech experts say the risk of being targeted is slim. But, it’s important to know how the AirTags work to understand how they can be misused. It all starts with Apple’s “Find My” network.
“If you had an iPhone or a MAC computer or air pods, they communicate over Bluetooth to any apple device anywhere. [the Find My network] was a feature that was turned on by default. So, as apple users, we didn't go in and elect to be part of that Apple Find My network. It was just turned on. That’s where it starts. Then, when the AirTag is released the AirTag utilizes that Find My network in the 728 million iPhones that are out in the world,” Butler explained.
Because so many people across the country use iPhones, the AirTags are able to give the user extremely accurate directions to their tag, with a wider range than devices like the Tile or Samsung Smart Tag.
What should you do if you find an AirTag on you that isn’t yours?
To find out, 5 On Your Side spoke with Tony Brian, the executive director of CyberUp.
He gave the following tips:
- Turn off your Bluetooth connection.
- Scan the AirTag. The scanning function can give you a serial number that you could provide to law enforcement.
- If the prior steps cannot be done, immerse the AirTag in water to stop it from working.
Apple has updated the AirTag system to alert users if there’s an AirTag nearby that doesn’t belong to them.
You will get an alert on your iPhone and the AirTag will sound an alarm. But it could take eight to 24 hours to hear that sound.
Android users may not get notified at all. That’s why you may want to download some apps to scan your phone for any unwanted Bluetooth connections.
“... Apple released an application called “Tracker Detect” that you can get through the Google Play store. If you're concerned, you can download the app and you can run it and then it will go out and search for those AirTags around you,” Butler said.
Experts also recommend apps like “Light Blue,” “Bluetooth Scanner,” “Bluetooth Auto Connect” or “Auto Bluetooth.”
You won’t get automatic notifications if a Bluetooth device is nearby. Meaning, you have to run these apps manually. So be vigilant and check them if you feel unsure.