A hot potato: Since their launch, people have warned that stalkers could use Apple’s AirTag tracking fobs to locate or shadow targets covertly. Even as Apple tries to make them safer, people continue finding ways around those changes. One of the physical safeguards—the speaker that alerts unsuspecting victims of the device’s presence has now been rendered mute.
For months there have been reports of AirTags being used to stalk people. Thieves have also used them to track cars and steal them later. AirTags are supposed to emit a warning if separated from their owners for hours, but some are finding ways to disable that function.
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
This week, PCMag discovered multiple eBay and other online listings for AirTags with disabled speakers. Electronic Frontier Foundation Director of Cybersecurity Eva Galperin expressed alarm after finding one on Etsy. Etsy and eBay have since removed the listings.
The seller on Etsy, who modified the AirTag by cutting a small hole to disconnect the speaker, told PCMag his intentions behind selling them. While admitting the possibility of “malicious activity” coming out of silent AirTags, user JTEE3D expected them to be used to keep track of personal objects without having to deal with the warning sound. The seller on eBay also said something similar, adding that if a thief steals an item with an AirTag attached, the warning beep might reveal the AirTag to the thief.
Regardless of the listings being removed, we can expect thieves and other malcontents to disable the speakers themselves now that the vulnerability is known.