How to avoid getting unwanted AirDrops

AirDrop can be useful for quickly sharing a file with a nearby friend, such as an mp3, photo, or document. However, the way that AirDrop works means that anybody within a 12-meter radius can send you a file. Undesirable people, such as hackers, could use AirDrop to send dangerous files.

Some parents have even complained that their children received non-consensual adult images via airdrop—a huge risk for young people when moving through public places using their iPhones. This is an obvious example of the potential risks associated with Airdrop’s non-discriminative file-sharing capabilities.

Other people have complained about receiving malicious files that infected them with malware, dodgy links to malicious websites, documents containing cyberbullying or hurtful comments, and other worrying and dangerous content they did not want to receive.

We understand that many iOS users want to protect themselves against inappropriate pictures, abuse, and other potentially dangerous AirDrops. Below, we explain how to avoid getting unwanted AirDrops on your iPhone or iPad.

How do strangers send unwanted AirDrops?

Unscrupulous individuals prey on iOS users by exploiting AirDrop’s native settings. Many users always leave their iPhone’s AirDrop feature on, which allows strangers and unwanted third parties, such as hackers, to send malicious messages or files.

If your iPhone or iPad’s AirDrop feature is set to Everyone, you will only receive unwanted AirDrops from strangers. If you change this setting, strangers can no longer send unwanted AirDrops.

How can I avoid unwanted AirDrops?

There are three key AirDrop settings to consider. Unless these settings are adjusted correctly, they could allow non-contacts and strangers to send you (or your child) unwanted AirDrops. By updating these settings, you can shore up any iPhone and make it safe to use in public places:

  1. Everyone: This is the most dangerous AirDrop setting because it allows anybody within a 40-foot radius to send an AirDrop to your device. This creates an unnecessary risk and increases the potential for receiving unwanted and unsolicited AirDrop files, including hateful comments, dangerous links, malicious applications, and inappropriate images.
  2. Contacts Only: This setting can hugely improve the security of your iPhone or iPad by ensuring that only people you know can send you AirDrops. Generally speaking, we encourage you to switch your AirDrop setting to “Contacts Only” when a friend wants to send you a file. When you have received the file, you can turn AirDop off again.
  3. Receiving Off: This is the safest AirDrop setting to use most of the time. By turning AirDrop to “Receiving off” you will never receive AirDrop requests from strangers. You can use your iOS device in public places without worrying about dangerous AirDrops.

Where is the AirDrop setting on iPhone?

You can easily update your AirDrop settings on your iPhone. The settings you need are located in the iOS settings application.

How to turn off AirDrop on iPhone or iPad

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide on how to turn off AirDrop on an iPhone or iPad:

  1. Open Settings: Tap on the Settings icon on your iOS home screen.
  2. Select General: Scroll down and tap on “General.”
  3. Tap on AirDrop: Find and select “AirDrop.”
  4. Choose Receiving Off: Tap on “Receiving Off” to disable AirDrop completely.

Switching your device to Receving Off will disable your device’s AirDrop capabilities. Your device will no longer be visible to others for sending files, protecting you against unwanted requests from strangers.

Why can’t I just decline unwanted AirDrop files?

This is a valid question, and the answer is nuanced. While anybody can decline incoming AirDrop requests, it isn’t the safest way to manage your iPhone or iPad. Declining incoming AirDrop requests may not be sufficient to protect yourself against malicious individuals. This is because AirDrop provides a preview of the incoming file.

When you receive a new AirDrop request, the incoming message will preview the content and the sender’s name (if available). You will also be allowed to either “Accept” or “Decline.”

Unfortunately, the incoming AirDrop message preview may contain a thumbnail of the incoming photo. This is designed to allow recipients to see what they receive and make informed decisions.

Although this helps ensure recipients have better control over the content transferred to their devices, it also means that you (or your child) could be exposed to inappropriate content in the preview thumbnail.

For this reason, declining unwanted AirDrops as and when you receive them is not completely effective for protecting against malicious AirDrops.

Has Apple fixed or improved the AirDrop feature to make it safer?

Yes. Apple has now changed the AirDrop feature on the most recent versions of iOS. Instead of allowing users to set AirDrop to Everyone permanently, users can only select “Everyone for 10 minutes.” After 10 minutes, your AirDrop feature will revert to contacts only and prevent you from receiving unsolicited AirDrops.

Where is the AirDrop symbol on the iPhone?

In addition to accessing your AirDrop feature in Settings > General, you can access it via that AirDrop symbol in your iPhone’s Control Center:

  1. To access AirDrop via the Control Center, swipe down from the top-right corner of your iPhone screen.
  2. Next, tap and hold on the top-left square (the one that contains your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings) until it expands. Airdrop feature in settings
  3. Now you can tap the AirDrop button and choose the setting you prefer: Airdrop - receiving off

Is it safe to set AirDrop to Contacts Only?

If you decide to set AirDrop to Contacts Only, you should be safe because you will only ever receive AirDrop requests from people you know.

However, it is worth noting that if your child is at school, kids could potentially exploit AirDrop to engage in cyberbullying or send unwanted or inappropriate content. For this reason, you may prefer to set AirDrop to Receiving Off.

Can I turn off AirDrop and prevent my child from turning it back on?

If you use the standard AirDrop settings to set local file sharing to “Receiving Off” it is still very easy for your child to turn AirDrop back on. This can lead to problems and may make parents concerned about allowing their child to leave the house with an unsupervised iPhone.

There is a way for parents and guardians to not only turn off AirDrop but also lock the ability to switch it back on. If this is what you prefer to do, you can follow the steps below:

  1. Open Settings: Tap on the Settings icon on your iOS device.
  2. Select Screen Time: Scroll down and tap “Screen Time.”
  3. Enable Content & Privacy Restrictions: Tap “Content & Privacy Restrictions” and toggle it on.
  4. Disable AirDrop: Tap on “Allowed Apps” and turn off AirDrop.
  5. Set a Screen Time Passcode: Head back to the main Screen Time menu and tap “Use Screen Time Passcode”. Set a passcode that your child doesn’t know.
  6. Restrict Passcode Changes: Head back to “Content & Privacy Restrictions,” scroll down to “Allow Changes,” tap “Passcode Changes,” and select “Don’t Allow.”
  7. Restrict Account Changes: While still in “Allow Changes,” tap “Account Changes” and select “Don’t Allow.” This prevents changes to accounts that might reset settings.
  8. Regularly check these settings to ensure they haven’t been altered.

This method ensures all related settings are more secure, making it significantly more difficult for a child to bypass parental restrictions.

As long as the Screen Time passcode is secure and unknown to the child, they cannot re-enable AirDrop or change the restrictions a parental guardian sets. This effectively locks down the ability to alter these settings, making it a robust solution for managing a child’s device usage and blocking access to the AirDrop feature.

Unwanted AirDrops FAQs