AirTag Successfully Hacked to Show Custom URL in Lost Mode

The inevitable race to hack Apple's AirTag item tracker has reportedly been won by a German security researcher, who managed to break into the device's microcontroller and successfully modify its firmware.


Thomas Roth, aka Stack Smashing, shared his achievement in a tweet and explained that re-flashing the device's microcontroller had enabled him to change the URL for Lost Mode, so that it opens his personal website on a nearby iPhone or other NFC-enabled device instead of directly linking to an official Find My web address.

Managing to break into the microcontroller is a crucial hurdle to overcome to if the aim is to further manipulate the device's hardware. As The 8-Bit notes:

A microcontroller is an integrated circuit (IC) used for controlling devices usually via a microprocessing unit, memory, and other peripherals. According to AllAboutCircuits, "these devices are optimized for embedded applications that require both processing functionality and agile, responsive interaction with digital, analog, or electromechanical components."

Roth also shared a video comparing a normal AirTag to his modified device.


How the hack might be exploited in the wild is unclear at this time, but the fact that it can be done may open up avenues for the jailbreaking community to customize the device in ways Apple didn't intend. On a darker note, it could also present opportunities for bad actors to modify the AirTag software for the purposes of phishing and more.

That's assuming Apple isn't able to remotely block such a modified AirTag from communicating with the ‌Find My‌ network. Alternately, Apple might be able to lock down the firmware in a future AirTag software update. Watch this space.

Related Forum: AirTags

Top Rated Comments

krewger Avatar
8 months ago
So…. It’s been hacked to be a customizable nfc tag. Looks like a lot of trouble to go through. I could also just put new nfc tags inside the AirTag’s case and accomplish the same thing. Security on your personal device is already in place - the link is displayed on the phone asking if you want to open it first before visiting the URL. https://electronics.howstuffworks.com/nfc-tag.htm
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Puonti Avatar
8 months ago

The AirTag does not carry other data than its own position.
I don't believe this is accurate. As I understand it:

An AirTag does not know where it is. All it does for location tracking is transmit radio waves. Devices that do know where they are can detect the AirTag, and then tell the FindMy network "I am at this location, and hey there's an AirTag here".
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Jumpinbeans Avatar
8 months ago
Basically if you find an airtag and don't know why its there or who it belongs to and its not worth scanning as it may be compromised - smash it :)
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
szw-mapple fan Avatar
8 months ago

So if you lose your AirTag and then find it after one day for example, you cannot trust it anymore? Or if you find someones AirTag should you be also wary of placing it near your own phone? This gets interesting.
This won't apply to the vast vast majority of users. It's a security exercise that's just to prove it's possible. People who needs to be worried about this type of exploits won't be using any trackers of this type anyways.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Unregistered 4U Avatar
8 months ago
Next up from security researchers
“SWALLOWING AIRTAGS COULD COMPROMISE YOUR DIGESTIVE SYSTEM… WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW”
or
“if you glue your house key to your airtag and then lose it, AIRTAGS COULD ALLOW SOMEONE ENTRY INTO YOUR HOUSE!”
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tomekwsrod Avatar
8 months ago
So if you lose your AirTag and then find it after one day for example, you cannot trust it anymore? Or if you find someones AirTag should you be also wary of placing it near your own phone? This gets interesting.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

airtag in hand

Apple AirTag Linked to Increasing Number of Car Thefts, Canadian Police Report

Friday December 3, 2021 7:10 am PST by
Apple's AirTags are being used in an increasing number of targeted car thefts in Canada, according to local police. Outlined in a news release from York Regional Police, investigators have identified a new method being used by thieves to track down and steal high-end vehicles that takes advantage of the AirTag's location tracking capabilities. While the method of stealing the cars is largely ...
apple top apps games 2020

Apple Reveals the Most Downloaded iOS Apps and Games of 2021

Thursday December 2, 2021 12:05 am PST by
Along with naming its editorial picks for the top apps and games of 2021, Apple today shared charts for the most downloaded free and paid apps and games in the United States across 2021. The number one most downloaded free iPhone app was TikTok, followed by YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. The top paid iPhone apps included Procreate Pocket, HotSchedules, The Wonder Weeks, and Touch...
m3 feature black

Macs With 'M3' Chips Expected to Use TSMC's 3nm Chip Technology With Test Production Reportedly Underway

Thursday December 2, 2021 7:36 am PST by
Apple's chipmaking partner TSMC has kicked off pilot production of chips built on its 3nm process, known as N3, according to Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. The report, citing unnamed industry sources, claims that TSMC will move the process to volume production by the fourth quarter of 2022 and start shipping 3nm chips to customers like Apple and Intel in the first quarter of...
telsa cyberwhistle

Elon Musk Urges Customers to Buy 'Tesla Cyberwhistle' Instead of Apple Polishing Cloth

Wednesday December 1, 2021 4:01 am PST by
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has encouraged customers to buy the "Cyberwhistle" for $50 instead of Apple's much-discussed Polishing Cloth. The product page, which Musk shared on Twitter on Tuesday evening, offers a limited edition stainless steel whistle with the same distinctive design of the Tesla Cybertruck:Inspired by Cybertruck, the limited-edition Cyberwhistle is a premium collectible made from ...
app store awards 2021

Apple Picks the 2021 App Store Award Winners, Highlighting the Best Apps of the Year

Thursday December 2, 2021 12:01 am PST by
Apple today shared its 2021 App Store Award winners, highlighting the 15 best apps and games selected by Apple's global App Store editorial team. The top apps were chosen for their quality, innovative technology, creative design, and positive cultural impact. "The developers who won App Store Awards in 2021 harnessed their own drive and vision to deliver the best apps and games of the year --...
MBA Mock White Front Blue

2022 MacBook Air Getting Major Display Upgrade With One Drawback

Friday December 3, 2021 3:01 am PST by
Apple's next-generation MacBook Air is reportedly set to bring over many of the new MacBook Pro's features, with one noticeable omission, according to recent reports. The latest MacBook Pro models feature a mini-LED "Liquid Retina XDR" display with deep blacks and support for up to 1,600 nits peak brightness. The display also features Apple's "ProMotion" technology, which is capable of...