Apple AirTags are making headlines again, as people are starting to sell silenced devices with the speakers disabled, making it easier for them to place them on unsuspecting victims. Should you worry about this?
What’s Happening With AirTags?
Apple has tried to prevent thieves and stalkers from using AirTags to track their victims. The company even released an Android app to help alert people when an unknown AirTag is near them (the functionality is already in iPhones). This was a significant step to stop people from using AirTags maliciously, but it’s not a perfect solution.
With the tracking methods from Apple, you’re relying on the speaker to help you find the AirTag, which has led people to start selling tracking devices with disabled speakers online. The Silent AirTag Etsy listing was removed once its existence started making news.
The Etsy seller sent a statement to PCMag regarding the listing and why it was created:
The intent of this modification was to cater to the several requests of buyers interested in my other AirTag product who were interested in fitting an AirTag to their bikes, pets and power tools. These requests led me to listing it as a product on Etsy, albeit without a great deal of traction. The vast majority of sales shown on my Etsy profile are from sales on my modified slim AirTag, designed to unobtrusively fit inside a purse or wallet.
Much like many products in the world, there will always be a minority of people who will use them for malicious activities. Content with my ability to help people with genuine, positive uses, I listed the product without having considered the negative consequences.
The AirTag is very easy to make ‘silent,’ either by electrical modification or simply muffling the noise with a clamping force. I can’t stop people from modifying AirTags themselves (there are various posts online instructing how to do so), but I can at least cease providing a tool that has the potential for malicious use.
While I believe there to be many positive uses for this product, there are some negatives, that I’m now aware of, that can’t be outweighed by any positive. In light of this, I have removed my listing from Etsy. I’m not affiliated with any other listings of silent AirTags.
A single listing going down doesn’t prevent the problem, as there are plenty of guides on YouTube that will show you how to disable the AirTag speaker. If someone really wants to use an AirTag as a malicious tracking device, they can figure out how to silence the tracker themselves.
There are also other Etsy listings for silent AirTags, so just removing this one isn’t going to make the problem go away.
Are Apple AirTags Really a Safety Risk?
There’s been no shortage of stories about AirTags being used maliciously to stalk people or steal high-end cars. Now, with more people figuring out how to silence the devices, the risk is slightly higher, but it’s technically a risk that has existed for some time, with devices like Tile trackers having been on sale for years.
The most significant difference is that AirTags use the power of Apple’s Find My Network, which makes the tracking better. There’s also the more mainstream push that comes from AirTags having the Apple name, which other trackers don’t.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing Apple can do about the speaker muting. The company was able to shorten the time before an AirTag goes missing and when the alert happens, but there’s no way for the company to address modified hardware.
While the reports are out there, it doesn’t seem like it’s such a widespread problem that would require Apple to remove the devices from the market or anything like that, but we’ll have to see if Apple decides to address this latest AirTag security risk.
Thankfully, your phone will still alert you if an unauthorized AirTag is near, but it’ll be harder to find if the person has muted the speaker. Still, you’ll know it’s there, and you can take the proper precautions to protect yourself and your stuff. As always, stay alert and keep an eye out to keep yourself as safe as possible out there.