AirTags appeared harmless enough when they first came out, promising to keep track of users’ belongings via a Bluetooth crowdsourcing system.
Much like many products in the world, there will always be a minority of people who will use them for malicious activities. Content with my ability to help people with genuine, positive uses, I listed the product without having considered the negative consequences.
The AirTag is very easy to make ‘silent,’ either by electrical modification or simply muffling the noise with a clamping force. I can’t stop people from modifying AirTags themselves (there are various posts online instructing how to do so), but I can at least cease providing a tool that has the potential for malicious use.
While I believe there to be many positive uses for this product, there are some negatives, that I’m now aware of, that can’t be outweighed by any positive. In light of this, I have removed my listing from Etsy. I’m not affiliated with any other listings of silent AirTags.
Although JTEE3D seemed to mean well and has since stopped selling his product, there are many others that are still up on the market. There are also plenty of DIY tutorials online that explain how you can disable an AirTag speaker on your own.
Even EFF Cybersecurity Director Eva Galperin has expressed her concern over this, when she posted a Tweet about the isssue yesterday.
Oh look. There is already a secondary market for modified AirTags with the speaker disabled for “stealth mode.” I hate everything so much right now. https://t.co/Y56CusJ4qP
— Eva (@evacide) February 2, 2022
While Apple does still have the AirTag detection notification feature to warn any Apple device user, it seems all too easy for hackers to bypass Apple’s safeguards for the purpose of following someone around.
And although Apple also extended the “AirTag found moving with you” warning into an app offered on Android phones, to make sure Android users aren’t being targeted, either, it may only be a matter of time before hackers figure out how to get past the last of Apple’s defenses and use the AirTag in ways it was never intended to be used.