China Says It Has Managed To Crack AirDrop’s Encryption

In a significant development, a Chinese tech company, Wangshendongjian Technology, has reportedly cracked the encryption surrounding Apple’s AirDrop wireless file sharing feature, according to an announcement by Beijing’s Justice Bureau. This breakthrough allowed the company to assist law enforcement in tracking down individuals who allegedly used AirDrop to disseminate “inappropriate information” to commuters in the Beijing subway.

The company’s success in identifying senders’ mobile phone numbers and email addresses has been hailed by the authorities, claiming it has helped curtail the spread of undesirable content through AirDrop. The announcement did not provide specific details about the nature of the messages or the identities of the suspects.

AirDrop, a popular feature restricted to Apple devices, has been a source of nuisance messages for commuters in Chinese cities. Furthermore, it was reportedly employed by protesters to disseminate anonymous messages critical of the Chinese government towards the end of 2022. In response to these concerns, Wangshendongjian Technology claimed to have overcome the “technical difficulties of anonymous traceability through AirDrop.”

Media reports, including The New York Times and Vice World News, have highlighted instances where Chinese residents used AirDrop to distribute leaflets and images echoing slogans from a rare protest against Chinese leader Xi Jinping in October 2022. This comes after a history of the feature being utilized by anti-government demonstrators in Hong Kong in 2019, who employed AirDrop to share artwork and posters promoting their cause.

In a bid to address the misuse of AirDrop, Apple, the creator of the popular feature, began restricting AirDrop sharing with non-contacts for devices in China in November 2022. This limitation, initially introduced in response to the protest against Xi Jinping, has since been expanded globally. As news of China’s successful decryption of AirDrop emerges, questions about the implications for user privacy and the security of Apple’s features are likely to surface. CNN has reached out to Apple for comment, and the tech giant’s response is eagerly awaited.

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