How to avoid being ‘cyberflashed’ on your iPhone

“Police are investigating a ‘new’ crime of cyberflashing after a commuter received an indecent image on her phone as she travelled to work,” Sarah Bell reports for BBC News. “The victim received two pictures of an unknown man’s penis on her phone via Apple’s Airdrop sharing function.”

“Lorraine Crighton-Smith, 34, said she felt ‘violated’ and reported it to the British Transport Police (BTP),” Bell reports. “In other words, to decide that she didn’t want to see a picture of someone’s flashed penis, she had to look at that very picture first.”

“The BTP has investigated the incident, but said because Ms Crighton-Smith did not ‘accept’ the photograph there was no technological evidence for them to work with and recorded it as intelligence,” Bell reports. “Supt Gill Murray said the force had dealt with cases involving Bluetooth but an incident via Airdrop was ‘new to us.'”

Read more in the full article here.

“She had Apple’s handy AirDrop service turned on, set to be accessible to everyone,” Paul Ducklin reports for, in this case, the ironically-named Naked Security (Spohos).

“What she hadn’t taken into account is that when someone tries to AirDrop you a photo, your iPhone requests permission by popping up a miniature version of the image and asking you to ‘[Decline’ or ‘Accept,'” Ducklin reports. “In other words, to decide that she didn’t want to see a picture of someone’s flashed penis, she had to look at that very picture first.”

Ducklin reports, “To reduce the chance of a creep on your bus or train AirDropping sleazy images on your iPhone, and to avoid standing out unnecessarily amongst your commuter crowd, here’s what you can do.”

1. Change the name of your iPhone to something neutral.
2. Make sure AirDrop is off if you aren’t using it.
3. Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi if you aren’t using them (Like AirDrop, you can turn them on and off in the Control Center).

More details and screenshots here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple should reconsider how Airdrop presents images for sharing via AirDrop. Until a safer method is devised, parents can and should use iOS’ Parental Controls to restrict use of AirDrop on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. More info a href=”https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201304″ target=”_new”>here.

26 Comments

    1. And if there’s a need to switch to “everyone” (because let’s face it, Airdrop is still hit and miss even on my own devices, let alone a friend’s or new acquaintance), turn it back to Contacts Only after you’re done.

      Apple needs to address this as MDN suggests, because turning Bluetooth and Wifi on and off all the time is the way of Android.

      1. And obvious default option for Apple to add, which would address the friendly situation described in the article, is to set AirDrop to ‘everyone’ for a temporary time period or to a single drop directed at a specific iOS device. That would limit the ability of a FlasherRat to force their junk on others.

  1. A picture of a penis? The horror! I hope that someday, after years of therapy, she can return to some semblance of a normal life despite the crippling post-traumatic stress disorder she must be experiencing.

    1. Much as I wish we all appreciated human sexual organs and human sexuality as a whole, the intention of any FlasherRat is obvious. The point is to troll someone, to upset them, to be obscene. ‘The horror!’ is the desired effect. I’m sorry you’re unable to comprehend.

    2. A mere picture of a penis causes her to contact the police? Just another example of how you Americans are so disturbed by even a hint of nudity. The human body is beautiful, but your stupid puritanical attitudes are something that the rest of the world laughs at constantly.

  2. “The victim received two pictures of an unknown man’s penis”

    How does she know that she doesn’t actually know the guy?
    Does she check out the penis on every male she meets?

        1. The nice lady had no way to know exactly who the FlasherRat actually was, despite him being within Bluetooth range. As it was, the guy kept sending further trolling images at her, deliberate abusive behavior.

          Now, nothing was stopping her from cracking a your quip at no one in particular in her vicinity. It would have been fun to watch who responded. Even creeps have a ‘tell’.

  3. If it was a setting that was a pain to get to, then I’d be concerned about what to have it set to all the time. As it is, it takes just a few seconds to swipe up, tap AirDrop, set it to receive from Everyone (when you want to receive from a new person that you don’t want to add to your contacts :), then switch it back to Contacts Only or Off.

  4. Somehow one report of this issue, and then raising awareness of it by making it a news item, only makes things worse, the “offended” woman, shouldn’t have wasted anyone’s time in reporting it, delete it as she did anyway, and then learned how to prevent it from happening again, which is super simple, turn it off, or set it to contacts only.. and revert when done if you need to use Everyone for a single transfer..

  5. Why is there even an Airdrop “feature” that allows any Tom, Dick, or Harry with an iPhone to send anything to another iPhone user? Is Apple taking feature cues from decade old MS devices?

    Shades of Zune squirting.

    I mean, really? Someone at Apple thought this was a good idea?

    1. leodavinci1: You need to read the article to understand the situation. It was actually a very friendly and nice sharing of photos to a stranger, until the FlasherRat intruded in order to upset the person sharing. And note, yes the point was to upset that person. Typical S&M troll behavior.

    2. Because lots of people don’t care and prefer to be accessible. Email is far worse. Anyone can send you anything. When you’re with a group of friends, it’s easier to just tell everyone open up AirDrop ( or just have it on Everyone to start with ).

      As to MDN’s suggestion of using a different method, I disagree. Would you rather have the chance to deny an image based on the thumbnail, or have to choose to accept the image without seeing a preview?

      I’d rather see a thumbnail, be annoyed, and deny it.

      The only thing I think Apple could add, is when you deny something, have the chance to block the user. And like MDN said, make this a parental thing you can disable accepting from Everyone for kids. For adults, though… what’s the difference between this and someone actually flashing you? Apart from the relative anonymity, it’s similar.

  6. Just checked on my phone, contacts only.

    I think if you drive a car, you are expected to know how to use it, lock the doors, share/not the keys… For your own safety.

    The phone is the same. However if AirDrop is equivalent to rolled down windows, you do not expect a passer buy to toss a soda (pop) through it.

    The human body is a beautiful thing. Flashing is a weapon. Like Derek said, a troll, with intent to harm.

    This poor woman should not have to be subjected to unwanted images.

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