Disable AirDrop on the Mac for increased security in public

How to increase security by disabling AirDrop on your Mac in public

If you have AirDrop enabled on your MacBook and you are using it in a public place, such as at a Wi-Fi hotspot, you could be at risk from malware and other threats. Turn it off to stay safe.

A weird thing happened to me today and it has never happened before.

I was at a public Wi-Fi hotspot with my MacBook Pro and an AirDrop message popped up on the screen. Someone wanted to send me a file using this Apple-only file transfer system..

Transfer files on the Apple Mac using Airdrop

The AirDrop message says Photo from “Simon’s Phone”. There were the usual Decline and Accept buttons.

This was weird because I don’t know anyone called Simon and I was at the public hotspot, a cafe, on my own. I had stopped by for a coffee and to do some work on my MacBook using the free Wi-Fi there.

Who is Simon and why would he send me a photo? Simon is a male name, yet the photo, tiny though it is, is looks female. Perhaps Simon thought the photo of the girl was too tempting to resist.

The only thought that came to mind was malware. I declined the connection, but had I accepted it and then tried to open the file that was sent, who knows what would have happened?

My guess is that this was an attempt to get a malicious file on my computer. Was I sharing the cafe with a hacker? It is possible.

It could have been anything, such as a Trojan that downloaded other malware, or something that stole usernames and passwords to online services.

I really don’t know what the reason was for trying to AirDrop me a photo, but I’ve now disabled AirDrop and you should too.

Related: Boost Mac security with a VPN without installing any software
Related: 15 ways to increase the security of your Mac

Configure the Share menu

Open System Preferences and go to Extensions. Select Share Menu on the left and sharing options appear on the right. AirDrop is listed, but System Preferences will not let you change the setting. It is on and that’s it. Another method of disabling AirDrop is needed.

Share Menu items in macOS on the Apple Mac

Turn off Bluetooth to stop AirDrop

AirDrop creates a wireless connection between computers, phones and tablets in order to exchange files. It needs Bluetooth to be enabled, so turning off Bluetooth in System Preferences will prevent AirDrop from working.

Turn off Bluetooth in System Preferences on the Apple Mac

AirDrop disabled

If you open a Finder window and select AirDrop on the left, a message appears in the window saying that to use AirDrop you must turn on Bluetooth.

If you use Bluetooth, such as for headphones, earphones or for communicating with your iPhone or Watch, you might need Bluetooth to be turned on.

Bluetooth needs to be turned on for AirDrop to work on the Apple Mac

Share with no one in AirDrop

Turn on Bluetooth and in the Finder window is Allow me to be discovered by: Click the text at the end and select No One to block everyone, or Contacts Only if you want to use AirDrop with people you know, but block strangers.

Restrict the people that can send you files using AirDrop on the Apple Mac

Disable sharing features in macOS

The AirDrop problem is solved, but there are other features you should disable when using a MacBook at public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Go to Sharing in System Preferences and turn off all the sharing options. You don’t want to open up your Mac’s sharing features to strangers. They might be tempted to try to connect to your Mac and see what they can access.

Disable sharing to increase security.

Disable sharing features in macOS using System Preferences

Enable the macOS Firewall

Visit Security & Privacy in System Preferences. Select the Firewall tab and make sure that the firewall is on. If it is not on, click the padlock in the lower left corner, enter your password and then turn on the firewall.

With these settings you will be much more secure when out in public. Also read this, 5 ways to browse the web privately using Safari on the Apple Mac.

 

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