Q. I was adding a photo to a note on my iPhone while I was on the train and noticed I could see the names of other iPhone users listed on the screen. I assume these were people nearby. So, can they see me and isn’t this a security risk?
A. When you tap the Share icon in the Photos app on your iPhone to attach the picture to a note or message, the iOS software shows you all the other ways and places to share files. One of these options is AirDrop, Apple’s wireless file-beaming technology, which can sense other compatible iOS gadgets in the area and transmit a file directly from device to device if a sharing request is accepted. AirDrop can also swap files with Macs that have the feature enabled.
AirDrop, which has been a part of Apple’s mobile operating system since iOS 7 in 2013, has had at least one major security issue over the years that Apple has fixed, but the ability to see other iPhones (or be seen yourself) in the Share menu can be controlled in the settings. To get to the AirDrop settings, swipe your finger up from the bottom of the screen to open the Control Center panel.
Tap the AirDrop button in the Control Center. In the default setting, AirDrop makes your device visible to others in the Share menu to “Contacts Only,” meaning just the people listed in your Contacts app.
However, if you have “Everyone” selected in the settings instead, anybody within range can see your phone in their own Share menu and request to send you a file. As one might expect, the opportunity to harass with explicit images is a temptation some cannot resist, and security researchers have been noting incidents of “cyberflashing” for years. More whimsical trolling with a photo of a sloth in an astronaut suit has also occurred.
To disable AirDrop — and your phone’s visibility — select “Receiving Off” in the Control Center’s AirDrop settings. As further security measures, turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (which AirDrop needs to function) in the Control Center when you are not using them, and change the name of your iPhone to something vague and less personal.
Read also: Getting iphone repair services