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Can’t Keep Them Away: The Failures of Anti-stalking Protocols in Personal Item Tracking Devices

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Security Protocols XXVIII (Security Protocols 2023)

Abstract

A number of technology companies have introduced personal item tracking devices to allow people to locate and keep track of items such as keys and phones. However, these devices are not always used for their intended purpose: they have been used in cases of domestic abuse and stalking to track others without their consent. In response, manufacturers introduced a range of anti-stalking features designed to detect and mitigate misuse of their products. In this paper, we explore common implementations of these anti-stalking features and analyse their limitations. In other research, we identified that very few people use anti-stalking features, even when they know that someone might be tracking them and are incentivised to evade them. In this paper, we additionally identify several failures of the features that prevent them from performing their intended purpose even if they were in use. It is impossible for anti-stalking features to identify the difference between ‘bad’ tracking and ‘good’ tracking. Furthermore, some features work on some types of phones for some types of tracking devices, but not all work on all phones for all trackers. Some anti-stalking features are not enabled by default, and some require manual intervention to scan for devices. We provide suggestions for how these features could be improved, as well as ideas for additional anti-stalking features that could help mitigate the issues discussed in this paper.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    https://www.theverge.com/2022/2/10/22927374/apple-airtag-safety-update-stalking.

  2. 2.

    https://www.macworld.com/article/606934/apple-airtag-problem-notifications-android-sound.html.

  3. 3.

    https://mashtips.com/remove-airtag-speaker/.

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Correspondence to Kieron Ivy Turk .

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Turk, K.I., Hutchings, A., Beresford, A.R. (2023). Can’t Keep Them Away: The Failures of Anti-stalking Protocols in Personal Item Tracking Devices. In: Stajano, F., Matyáš, V., Christianson, B., Anderson, J. (eds) Security Protocols XXVIII. Security Protocols 2023. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 14186. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-43033-6_9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-43033-6_9

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  • Online ISBN: 978-3-031-43033-6

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