I’m not unfamiliar with the classic AirDrop prank, where Apple device users are able to AirDrop a funny or silly video or image to other Apple users as long as they’re within the same Bluetooth and WiFi range. It usually is pretty harmless, and the receivers have the choice of whether or not they want to accept the file. But a dumb move resulted in the evacuation of a United Airlines flight.
Twitter user @realchrisjbeale tweeted that his mom’s United Airlines flight out of San Fransisco International Airport (SFO) to Orlando (United Airlines Flight 2167) was “held on tarmac” because someone was passing “inappropriate pictures” to several passengers through AirDrop. Everyone on board had to be “re-screened”.
According to SFO spokesperson Doug Yakel, the “inappropriate pictures” apparently featured an airsoft gun. After a few passengers reported that they had received the photos into their iPhones, every passenger was taken off the flight “out of an abundance of caution”.
Yakel explained that they found their culprit—a teenage boy, who ended up being booted off the flight. It’s unclear how they caught the teenage AirDropper, as people can anonymously AirDrop images to passersby. He could have either forgot to change the name for his phone when AirDropping, or—as AirDrop only works within roughly 30 feet of the sender—they were able to triangulate which passenger was the right distance from everyone who had gotten the photo.
AirDrop pranks are usually just involve users sending silly memes, but a prank like sending a picture of a gun to plane passengers is not the smartest move to make. After an investigation, the photo was revealed to have been “taken at an earlier date and at a location not at an airport” and the teen didn’t have the gun anywhere on him.
Like the majority of iPhone users, I leave my AirDrop settings wide open for anyone to send me anything—and that allows anyone within dropping range to AirDrop potentially unsolicited images. But we can easily change the settings when we want to.