On Your Side Investigation: Cyber Flashing

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - If you own an iPhone or your kids use one, imagine this: You're in a public space and a lewd image appears on your phone and you have no idea where it came from, or even who sent it to you.

As we found out, there's one setting on your iPhone that could leave you and your children vulnerable to "Cyber Flashing."

AirDrop, Apple's file sharing system, is supposed to make it easier for all of us to instantly swap photos, documents - almost anything with trusted family or friends. But creeps can spoil a good thing, Cyber Flashing you their private parts.

"It would never occur to me, that someone would say 'Hmm, I think I'll take an inappropriate picture of myself, and just randomly fire it off to anyone's phone that I can find, within the general vicinity,'" said Cybersecurity Expert Dave Hatter.

Our Raycom investigators placed Melissa Collins, a busy mom, on a bench inside the mall to show her how simple it is for her or her kids to get Cyber Flashed.

We checked the AirDrop menu on her phone. It was as easy as selecting an image and clicking AirDrop - Melissa's iPhone showed up in range. We clicked on her phone's icon, hit send, and boom! It happens that fast.

AirDrop is supposed to work at most from 30 feet away. So we measured 30 ft. away from Melissa and hit send. Again, she got it!

"I use a Mac for work and other people in my office also use a Mac, so they can AirDrop documents to me, to share documents," Collins says.

Faster, she says, than trying to email and copy everyone with attachments. The entire office can get those documents in seconds! But Melissa says she doesn't change those settings when she leaves work, and that could leave her open to unwanted images or worse being AirDropped on her.

"The possibility of you getting something, potentially much worse than an anonymous picture of someone's genitalia, something like a virus, malware, keystroke logger, or something that could do you and your family some serious harm because it steals your information, steals your identity, wipes your bank account out, or who knows what else," Hatter said. "That, in my mind, is the real risk."

"It's very scary," Collins says. "I have a 13-year-old son, he turned 13 in May and got a phone in May."

So how do you protect yourself? The easiest way is to simply go to your iPhone settings, hit general, then "AirDrop" and make sure you either have it off, or set to contacts only.

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