The AirTag privacy controversy continues to rumble on, despite Apple’s best efforts to offset the concerns by shoring up the item tracker’s defences.
A police department in Canada says it has investigated five separate incidents since September this year, where AirTag trackers have been used to steal people’s cars.
The York Regional Police in Ontario says tech-savvy thieves are hiding AirTag trackers in hard-to-see areas, such as behind the auxiliary power socket within a truck’s tailgate (pictured below).
From there, the thieves are able to track the vehicles to a parking lot or the owner’s house, where they can be robbed. From here, the thieves have been able to gain access to the car and use a simple reprogramming device to activate new keys and ride off into the sunset.
“Thieves typically use tools like screwdrivers to enter the vehicles through the driver or passenger door, while ensuring not to set off alarms,” the YRP says (vis TNW). “Once inside, an electronic device, typically used by mechanics to reprogram the factory setting, is connected to the onboard diagnostics port below the dashboard and programs the vehicle to accept a key the thieves have brought with them. Once the new key is programmed, the vehicle will start and the thieves drive it away.”
Apple isn’t the only company’s trackers this could be achieved with and, to be fair, Apple has taken measures to try and negate the potential for stalking and controlling behaviour using AirTag trackers.
Since launch Apple has added features to ensure that a tone is played when an AirTag is separated from its registered owner (they can’t be activated without one) in 8 hours and then in 24 hours. Previously this would have taken three days.
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iPhone owners can also search for an AirTag if they believe one may have been planted on their person. However, if the item is planted in a discreet location on the outside of their car, it’s may be difficult to hear those alerts.
As a result of this crime spree, the Canadian cops are recommended parking in locked garages, using a steering wheel local and installing a lock on the data port to prevent thieves accessing this to reprogram the keys.