Rising Car Theft Cases in Canada Linked to Criminals Exploiting Apple AirTags : Tech : Tech Times

By Quincy Jon, Tech Times
Mar 29, 2024 02:59 PM EDT

Apple AirTags have dreadfully transformed Canada’s fight against auto theft gangs as law enforcement authorities report that criminals are now using these tracking devices, originally meant to assist users in retrieving lost objects, to select and monitor automobiles for theft.

Auto theft has become widespread in Canada, with the Insurance Bureau of Canada reporting over 105,000 thefts in 2022, according to Apple Insider. Among the recent victims is Ethan Yang.

While returning from Montreal, Massachusetts resident Yang shared that when he reached the border, his phone detected a tracking device. Upon inspection, he discovered an AirTag hidden on his car’s front grill.

Yang’s case is among many complaints the Burlington, Vermont officials received wherein visitors found GPS monitoring devices in their vehicles in March. According to Vermont Intelligence Center cyber specialist Ryan McLiverty, these devices might identify automobiles for theft and export as part of bigger car theft schemes.

Apple AirTag: A Double Edged Sword

The use of Apple AirTag technology to track and choose targets has raised concerns about auto theft. Criminals in Montreal are using AirTags to track and steal cars, leading to an increase in automobile theft.

Finding an unfamiliar AirTag on a car might seem intrusive and vulnerable. If thieves track a stolen car from Toronto to Dubai, they may entice victims to use the gadget. Apple, law enforcement, and experts advocate reporting theft occurrences to the police rather than confronting culprits.

Notably, in an effort to prevent car theft using the tracking technology, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser implemented an Apple AirTag distribution program for high-risk communities.

Mayor Bowser acknowledged that the abuse of AirTags shows that the fight against automobile crime is evolving, posing new problems for law enforcement and communities. Hence, in Novemner, DC started offering free Apple AirTags to its residents to minimize the case of car theft, as previously reported by TechTimes.

Read Also: New York City OKs Robotaxis; Requires Human Safety Drivers for Autonomous Vehicle Tests

(Photo : BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
This photo illustration taken on February 13, 2023 shows an Apple Air Tag in Washington, DC. 

Northeastern University researchers have raised concerns over Apple AirTags’ privacy and safety due to surveillance and harassment. AirTags were designed to help users find their items, but they may also be hidden in luggage or cars to monitor people without permission, experts say.

There were more than 37 class-action lawsuits filed against Apple, alleging that stalkers and abusers used the devices to track their victims, per a TechTimes news story.

The researchers found that AirTags use Bluetooth to continually emit signals that neighboring devices identify and send to Apple servers for exact position monitoring. The issue lies in the owner’s complete control over these devices, which enables their covert use in vehicles or baggage to monitor individuals.

Experts Urge Tech Companies to Address Safety Concerns

For safety, iPhones detect continuous transmissions from unassociated AirTags and notify users of an unusual device. Users may then locate and disable the AirTag. Despite this protection, the research indicated that unknown AirTag messages may take 30 minutes to nine hours to reach consumers. Nighttime or frequented areas like home or work trigger faster alarms.

The researchers also found ways to alter AirTags to bypass these safety features, enabling users to stay close to an unfamiliar AirTag without alerting them. 

With these Apple AirTag security issues, researchers urge  Apple and other developers to implement modifications to enhance the security of tracking these devices.

Related Article: Apple Dismisses Comparison to Microsoft Antitrust Case Amid DOJ Suit

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