How Secure Are Apple AirTags?
Image by Jonas Elia
Apple’s engineers did a relatively good job when developing security features for AirTags.
Before you decide to use Apple’s devices to track personal items or business assets, take some time to learn about the potential security risks with Apple AirTags.
You might find that you have better options.
AirTag Security Features
Before criticizing Apple AirTags, let’s learn about the features that help make them secure. If you already use Apple AirTags, you benefit from:
Encrypted communications that prevent others from intercepting or eavesdropping on your device’s signal.
Randomized BlueTooth identifiers that change frequently to prevent others from tracking your movements.
Separation alerts from your iPhone that tell you when you’re carrying someone else’s AirTag.
It also helps that Apple AirTags don’t store any personal information. If you lose your AirTag, no one can use it to learn your name, phone number, address, or other personal data. Although you can track your AirTag’s location, no one can use it to identify you or your location.
Potential Security Risks for Individuals
Despite Apple’s ongoing efforts, you still find potential security risks with Apple AirTags.
Separation Alerts Can Take a Day
Before June 2021, iPhones wouldn’t send owners separation alerts until an unrecognized AirTag had been within range for three days. Following complaints, Apple realized it needed to improve this security aspect, so it shortened the period to 24 hours.
A full day is still a very long and dangerous amount of time to be tracked. A criminal would only need minor planning to execute nefarious plans within 24 hours.
Only iPhone Users Can Receive Separation Alerts
Perhaps even more concerning, only iPhone owners can receive separation alerts. AirTags don’t communicate with devices that use Android and other operating systems. That means a stalker could follow a target without triggering an alert.
If you use an Android smartphone, you can only protect yourself from AirTag tracking by downloading the Tracker Detect app. The app won’t give you automatic alerts, though. You will need to manually scan your area for unknown AirTags. The app will only find AirTags that have been near you for at least 10 minutes. Tracker Detect can force detected AirTags to make a sound, so you can find them easily.
Apple AirTags' Security Risks for Businesses
Apple AirTags might seem like affordable ways to prevent theft. AirTags have extremely compact designs, so you can place them in just about anything, including bicycle frames, computers, and clothing.
With cargo theft on the rise, you might even think about using Apple AirTags to track containers as they travel to their destinations.
Unfortunately, you will encounter different security risks with Apple AirTags when you use them to protect business assets.
AirTags Only Work Near iPhones
Apple AirTags use Bluetooth to communicate with nearby iPhones and other Apple devices. As long as they can connect to an Apple smart device, AirTags can share their location information via Apple’s Find My network.
The Find My network does some amazing things. For example, it can encrypt data so connected devices don’t see personal information. When your AirTags connect to an iPhone, the iPhone’s owner can’t learn anything about you or your location.
Unfortunately, the network also has some severe limitations. Imagine that you want to track cargo as it moves from a warehouse to a storefront. The route takes your cargo through rural areas with low population density and very little traffic. In this situation, your Apple AirTags will probably lose contact with the Find My network. If someone steals the items and stays in an area without a lot of Apple devices, you might lose touch with your cargo.
GPS Units Offer More Reliable Tracking
GPS units use a more robust network that connects to ground stations and satellites orbiting the planet. Ideally, GPS units connect to at least four satellites so they can create three-dimensional location maps. Even in low-population areas, most GPS trackers can connect with enough satellites to communicate their two-dimensional coordinates. You don’t need a connection to any specific devices or the internet.
GPS works practically everywhere, so you don’t risk losing your cargo when shipping it across long distances. A device like the LandAirSea 54 with ShareSpot Location Sharing and Tracking System will track your items no matter where they go. That information makes it more likely that law enforcement can locate your missing assets.
Other benefits of using a LAS 54 include its:
Waterproof and dustproof exterior
Built-in magnet mount
Real-time location tracking
Long battery life (up to six months on “Low Power Mode”)
Rechargeable battery that notifies you when it has a low charge
While individuals have few security risks with Apple AirTags in urban areas, businesses need to think about the benefits GPS offers in more diverse environments.
Thieves Can Detect AirTags
When Apple added separation alerts to AirTags, it had personal safety in mind. Given the possibility that someone could use AirTags to stalk people, it makes sense to build personal security into the unit.
Unfortunately, separation alerts also make it possible for thieves to find any AirTags your business uses to track assets. They just have to use iPhones to search for unknown devices near them. Alternatively, they can use an Android phone with the Tracker Detect app installed.
Once thieves know the location of your AirTag, they can discard it to prevent you from tracking them or retrieving your assets.
GPS Units Are Harder To Detect
While AirTags make it easy for people to find and dispose of them, GPS units can track locations in real time without detection. Unless thieves have access to sophisticated technology, they can’t find GPS trackers easily. They would have to search the vehicle and boxes to locate the unit.
Few thieves will take the time needed to find GPS trackers. Even when they try to find the units, they will likely miss them. You just need to find stealthy places to hide your GPS tracker. Some of the best places to hide GPS trackers in a vehicle include:
Inside a door panel
Inside a brake light
Under a seat or inside a seat cushion
On the undercarriage
Finding a GPS unit becomes even more challenging when you use shipping containers and semi-trucks. Just attach it to the ceiling or put it inside a box. It could take hours for someone to find it.
AirTags Don’t Alert You About Potential Theft
AirTags function pretty passively. They won’t alert you when they go out of range. Instead, you need to use your Apple device to find their locations. That works well enough when you misplace a purse, but it doesn’t offer proactive security that prevents people from stealing items.
LAS Devices Can Send You Alerts
LAS devices use software called Silvercloud. Silvercloud makes it easy for you to set up geographic boundaries with your smartphone or computer.
Once you draw a boundary on your map, your GPS units will notify you when they cross borders. For example, a car dealership might draw a boundary around its parking lot (a geofence). If someone drives a car across the line, you receive a notification. Then, you can follow up as necessary, which might involve reaching out to someone on site or calling the police.
Devices to Avoid the Security Risks of Apple AirTags
If you just want to stop losing your keys, you can rely on Apple AirTags to get the job done. When you want to track expensive assets, you need a more reliable option that lets you avoid the security risks of Apple AirTags.
LAS has a few options you should consider.
The LAS SYNC is a great option for tracking vehicles that have OBD-II ports. The GPS tracker plugs directly into the port, so it never runs out of power.
If your vehicle has a port inside the cabin, thieves might see it when trying to steal the vehicle. That’s the downside. Still, it works exceptionally when you want to track employee behaviors or optimize driving routes.
The Overdrive is a larger version of the LAS 54. It has a bigger battery that can hold a charge for up to a year in “Low Power Mode.”
Although bigger than the LAS 54, Overdrive still has a compact design that measures 2.813 inches (17.45 mm) across and 1 inch (25.4 mm) high.
Not sure which LAS GPS tracker suits your needs best? Reach out to Ian Conley at email@example.com to learn more about your options and how people like you use them.