United Airlines, Apple, Air Travel, Airlines, Air Security

United Airlines, Apple

How Apple’s AirDrop Caused A ‘Threat On Board’ A United Flight Last Week

A teenager's prank using the file-sharing feature and a toy gun caused a three-hour delay for hundreds of passengers.

7/26/2021 1:25:00 AM

A United Airlines flight was prepping for takeoff when several passengers inexplicably received a photo of a gun via their phones.

A teenager's prank using the file-sharing feature and a toy gun caused a three-hour delay for hundreds of passengers.

gettyLast Thursday, a United Airlines flight was prepping to leave the gate at San Francisco International Airport when several passengers inexplicably received a photo of a gun via their smartphones.After those passengers notified flight attendants, the pilot announced a “threat on board,” reports 

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SF Gate.That initiated a three-hour delay, while officials evacuated the plane, rescreened all the passengers and searched the aircraft.Christopher Beale, an independent radio host based in San Francisco, recounted on Twitter that his mother was on the plane that was supposed to be on its way to Orlando. “My Mom’s flight out of SFO was held on the tarmac because someone was airdropping inappropriate pictures to several passengers,”

Beale tweeted. “Why are people like this!?”The culprit was a teen passenger who had disseminated an image of an Airsoft gun, a replica firearm that closely resembles a traditional firearm but shoots nonlethal, plastic pellets. Police have long warned that Airsoft guns are so realistic that they can be easily mistaken for real guns. In 2015, police in Ohio shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice headtopics.com

after mistaking his replica gunfor a real firearm.To be clear, the teen passenger booked on United flight 2167 from San Francisco to Orlando last week did not actually have the Airsoft gun on the plane and the photo was taken at an earlier date.Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this incident was how the teen shared the alarming photo with complete strangers. He pulled off his prank using

, a file-sharing feature on iPhones and other Apple devices that lets users send photos, videos, and more using a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.Apple devices can send unsolicited files to strangers located up to 30 feet away if they have

AirDrop set to receive files from “Everyone.”Most adults who use AirDrop choose to share files with individuals on their contact lists, but there are some practical, legitimate reasons for mass-sharing files using AirDrop. For example, a conference speaker might use AirDrop to distribute a PDF to a large group of individuals who are not contacts. Or a business owner may use AirDrop to share a file to everyone in an employee meeting.

But AirDrop has another legacy; teens have engaged in mass image sharing via AirDrop for years, often to prank unknowing individuals nearby.Apple device users can control who can send them files via AirDrop by adjusting the feature’s receiving setting. On your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings, tap General, then AirDrop. Choose one of three options: Receiving Off, Contacts Only, or Everyone. headtopics.com

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Alternatively, you can open the Control Center by either swiping down from the upper-right corner of the screen or swiping up from the bottom of the screen, depending on the version of your device. Next, touch and hold the network settings card in the upper-left corner of the screen until you can view your AirDrop setting.

A United spokesperson confirmed to reporters that Thursday’s flight 2167 was “delayed due to a security issue involving a customer on board.” The teenage passenger who caused the disruption was not permitted back on the plane. Read more: Forbes »

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