A German researcher named Stacksmashing spread a tweet about his success in hacking the Apple AirTag Item Tracker. He reverse engineered the microcontroller on the device (even though he bricked two AppleTag units in the process) and reflashed the microcontroller so he could make some changes to the AirTag functionality. The change made had to do with the URL that is displayed in a notification when an AirTag is tapped in lost mode by an NFC-enabled smartphone (iOS or Android).
When an AirTag goes into lost mode, it sends out signals that can be picked up by nearly 1 billion active people Apple Devices worldwide. When an AirTag is discovered by this “Find My” network, placing the AirTag near an iPhone or NFC-enabled Android device will open a notification directing the person who finds the lost tag to a website ( found.apple.com) forwards. Hopefully the owner of the missing item remembered to add their contact information including a phone number and a message.

This is where the hack comes in. The German researcher changed the URL in the notification. Instead of telling the person who discovered the lost AirTag about the website found.apple.com, the notification advertised the researcher’s website and provided its URL.

This should be alarming Apple because the AirTag hack may allow someone to track a specific AirTag user. Apple already sends an alert when it detects that an unrelated AirTag is “traveling” with a family. The possibility that an AirTag could be hacked to create a security issue seems to have proven very possible and Apple needs to respond.

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