How to protect yourself from AirTag and tile harassment


Bluetooth trackers, including Apple’s AirTag and all Tiles, are great little tools to help you find your lost keys or remotes. Unfortunately, they can also be easily slipped into a bag or affixed to a car for tracking purposes. Apple has released a number of AirTag updates to limit this possibility, as well as an app for Android users that allows them to manually scan for malicious AirTags, but that doesn’t change the fact that those tiny trackers at 30 $ can still be used in a bad way. .

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself from harassment from Bluetooth trackers. We’ve created a basic guide to help you assess your risk, know what to look for, and turn off any foreign Bluetooth tracker you might find.

Consider your risk profile and create a security plan

Abuse facilitated by technology is the use of any technological means to coerce, stalk or harass another person. According to The latest data from the CDC, 16% of women and 3.7% of men have experienced criminal harassment in their lifetime. There are caveats though: This report doesn’t separate physical harassment from cyberstalking, and it was released long before Apple’s popular AirTag hit the market. Needless to say, technology has changed dramatically since then, so there is a good possibility that these numbers may not accurately reflect the current state of cyberstalking.

Although anyone can be the target of a cyber-stalker via an AirTag, Tile, or hundreds of different tracking apps, some groups appear to be more vulnerable than others. There is little data related to harassment using Bluetooth trackers in particular, but we can extrapolate based on existing harassment and abuse facilitated by technology. While this list is by no means exhaustive, you may want to take extra precautions if you belong to any of the following groups:

Women between 18 and 24 and survivors of intimate partner violence are much more likely to be stalked.

LGBTQ + people are more vulnerable stalking than the general population, according to SPARC, the Stalking Prevention and Awareness Resource Center. BIPOC adolescents and young adults, as well as active duty members who identify as LGBT have a higher risk factor in this group.

Journalists, especially journalists from local television, are more likely to experience abuse and harassment facilitated by technology. Amanda Hess, General Reviewer for The New York Times, talks about his own experience with the harassment and stalking by a man convicted of murder, and how the police did not take the problem seriously. Hess writes, “None of this makes me exceptional. It makes me a woman with an Internet connection ”, before discussing the experiences of other women journalists and bloggers.

Human rights activists, dissidents and defenders are also more likely to be the target of technology-facilitated abuse, particularly in countries with poor human rights. the United Nations Human Rights Office provides resources and an overview of more specific threats for people in this group.

If you belong to any of these groups, head to the Technology Security Website to create a security plan and find defenders and other resources.

Inspect your personal belongings regularly

AirTag and Tile trackers are small, which makes them easy to hide. Here are some common places to look to make sure you’re not being tracked, and ways to make your life a little more stalker-proof.

Bags, luggage and handbags

Take a few minutes to empty your bag and pockets each day. Make sure all seams are intact and you don’t feel any annoying lumps or hard surfaces. Trackers like the Tile Slim are thin enough that they can easily be placed under the liner at the bottom of a bag where interfacing or foam is used to help it hold its shape, making the tracker less noticeable.

Stick to bags and purses that have zippers or magnetic cases. If you’re carrying a backpack or other bag with lots of side pockets, consider using iron-on tape for the hems to seal them permanently, or use inexpensive snaps to make them more difficult to open. If you have a leather bag or just don’t want to bother with securing the side compartments, a dry cleaner can easily add snaps and sew the pockets to close or even remove them.

Bluetooth trackers can easily be tucked away in a bag under the liner (Photo: Steven Winkelman)

If you are traveling, use an FAA approved luggage lock and carefully check your bag and all of its contents when you leave and arrive. Keep your luggage locked when you leave your room and check the pockets of any items you send to be washed or pressed.

To post

If you use a PO Box or rent a letterbox, open all your mail before you get home. Be especially careful with unfamiliar boxes or envelopes as they may contain Bluetooth trackers. Remove and inspect all packing material for the boxes and, if possible, dispose of your waste before leaving the building.

Box with a bluetooth tracker hidden under the packing material.

If you use a PO box, letterbox service, or USPS general delivery, always check your mail before you get home (Photo: Steven Winkelman)

If you live in a rural area, do not have courier delivery, or ask Poste restante service, never leave the post office until you have checked and inspected all of your mail. In these situations, a stalker who can get a feel for your location can send a package through general delivery, and it will arrive at your post office. If you wait to open your mail until you get home, the person might be able to find your home address.

Bikes and cars

If you are riding a bike, take the time to check under the saddle to make sure a tracker has not been affixed to it.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of places to hide trackers on cars, but it’s worth checking behind the license plates, the opening between the hood and the windshield, in the wheel arches, and along the side. below the front and rear bumpers.

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Bluetooth tracker hidden under the hood of the car

A bluetooth tracker can easily be placed on your, can you spot the one hidden here? (Photo: Steven Winkelman)

How to find Bluetooth trackers

If an AirTag is traveling with an unregistered person, it will start beeping. If you have an iPhone with iOS 14.5 or later, you will also have receive an alert on your phone. The AirTag will start ringing between 8 and 24 hours after the tracker is separated from its registered user; in our tests, this tends to happen sooner rather than later. If you place your phone against the AirTag, you’ll get its serial number and information on how to turn it off.

If you find an AirTag that doesn’t belong to you and you don’t have an iPhone, you can place it on any phone’s NFC reader to get the serial number and instructions on how to deactivate it. Keeping track of the serial number is important because Apple works with law enforcement around the world to help with cyberstalking cases. Apple also has a Tracker detection app in the Google Play Store which allows you to manually search for AirTags using Android phones.

Unfortunately, locating a wandering tile tracer isn’t that easy. There are no sound alerts for Tiles that are separated from their owners for long periods of time, and at the time of this writing, the company does not offer the option to manually search for trackers, although it indicates that the Tile application will be updated at the start. 2022 to include a scan function.

Macmonde recommended BLE scanner for Android users and Search for Bluetooth BLE device on iOS to manually search for trackers. It’s worth noting that if you live in an apartment, have roommates, or just have a lot of tech gear, you can find dozens of Bluetooth devices within range with generic names.

How to turn off bluetooth trackers

Again, AirTags are a bit easier to manage as you can lean them against your phone and get instructions on how to turn them off. But if your phone does not have an NFC, deactivating an AirTag is very easy. Simply place the tracker between your fingers, twist the silver back slightly to open it, and remove the battery.

AirTag with back removed

AirTags are easy to turn off (Photo: Steven Winkelman)

With the exception of the Tile Pro, it is not possible to remove the battery from the rest of the current Tile tracker line. Do not try to break or crush the tracker, as the battery can burst and cause serious injury.

Tracker in a water bag

If you find a tracker with a non-removable battery, immerse it in water and take it to local authorities or throw it away from your home (Photo: Steven Winkelman)

Tile trackers rely on the limited range of Bluetooth and other users on the Tile network to locate devices. If you find an unexpected Tile tracker in your bag, you may significantly degrade its range by placing the tracker in a freezer bag or jar or water. After that, you can take it to the local authorities and file a police report, or just throw it in a public trash that is not near you.

Bluetooth trackers are constantly evolving, so we’ll be sure to update this story regularly as new security methods become available.

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