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How to Prevent Unsolicited AirDrops to Your Apple Device


macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

Since its introduction with iOS 7, AirDrop has become the favored means for iPhone and iPad users to instantly share photos, videos, documents, and more to nearby Apple devices over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Using it to transmit content from apps like Photos and Safari couldn't be simpler, thanks to its top-level location in the iOS Share Sheet, accessed via the ubiquitous Share icon.

AirDrop is popular with all sorts of users, from teenagers who use it to flirt or share innocent memes in public places like concerts and festivals, to professionals who AirDrop project materials to each other across the office. Unfortunately, however, the way AirDrop currently works also leaves it wide open to abuse.

Technically, iOS doesn't allow just anyone to share a photo or document to your device unless you actively choose to accept it. The problem with AirDrop though is that it displays a preview of the proposed shared content on your device's screen, whether or not you actually want to see it.

Riders on New York City's subways often report being subjected to unsolicited nude images sent over AirDrop in this way. In fact the problem is so bad that NYC lawmakers introduced a bill last year that would make it illegal "for a person to send an unsolicited sexually explicit video or image to another person with intent to harass, annoy or alarm such other person."

But finding and prosecuting an AirDrop offender would be extremely difficult. The problem is that when someone attempts to send something to you over AirDrop, iOS identifies them by their device's name. However, the name of a device can be changed by its user at a moment's notice, which would make it almost impossible for the average user to know where the AirDropped content came from.

Protecting Yourself From AirDrop Harassment

To protect yourself from receiving unsolicited content in a public place, you could disable AirDrops to your device by turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but this limits you unnecessarily when you consider that Apple lets you control who can see your device and send you content using AirDrop.

There are two active settings for AirDrop: You can set it to accept shares from anyone, or only from people whose email address or mobile number appears in your contacts. Alternately, you can turn off the feature completely. You can use these settings to ensure that you don't become the unwitting victim of an unsolicited AirDrop share. Keep reading to learn how.

How to Restrict AirDrop in iOS

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Scroll down and tap General.

    Tap AirDrop.

    Tap Contacts Only or Receiving Off.
How to Restrict AirDrop via Control Center

You can also set your AirDrop options in Control Center. Here's how:
  1. Open Control Center on your device in the following way: On an iPad with a Home button, double-tap the Home button; on iPhone 8 or earlier, swipe up from the bottom of the screen; and on a 2018 iPad Pro or iPhone X/XR/XS/XS Max, swipe down from the upper right of the screen.

    Press firmly or touch and hold the network settings card in the upper-left corner.
  2. Tap AirDrop.
  3. Tap Contacts Only or Receiving Off.
How to Restrict AirDrop in macOS

If you've been the victim of AirDrop harassment on a Mac at work (in an open plan office, for instance) here's how to restrict who can share content with you in macOS.
  1. Open a Finder window on your Mac.
  2. Select AirDrop from the Finder sidebar (if AirDrop isn't listed, use the keyboard combination Command-Shift-R to open it.

    Click the setting prefaced with Allow me to be discovered by: and select Contacts Only or Receiving Off from the drop-down menu.
If you're a regular user of AirDrop in macOS and regularly open it in Finder, consider adding an AirDrop shortcut to your Dock for one-click access to it from any screen.

Article Link: How to Prevent Unsolicited AirDrops to Your Apple Device
  • Like
Reactions: EdRed


macrumors 65816
Jun 6, 2005
I do only contacts - but it would be a nice option to disable previews and only report file type.
  • Like
Reactions: vnrwka


macrumors 6502a
May 29, 2018
I made the change day one but it might be interesting to open it up the next time I'm on the subway just to see what "pops up" ;)
  • Like
Reactions: twocents


macrumors G4
Jun 27, 2007
Central U.S.
Seems like a unique way to delay your flight so you can go to an important meeting or something. I feel like more people jackasses are going to start doing this.

now i see it

macrumors 603
Jan 2, 2002
Anyone who actually uses AirDrop never leaves it on continuously with access to "everybody". I bet everyone who got an unsolicited AirDrop bomb didn't even know what AirDrop was.
  • Like
Reactions: I7guy and Shirasaki


May 1, 2018
Have only once received and unsolicited AirDrop during my commute, and the it looked like someone had sent a few photos by mistake. So I took a photo of the train carriage and sent back, and I saw a person looking around confused immediately afterwords.

Otherwise option to only show preview from my contacts would be nice as I regular AirDrop/receive Airdrop from people not in my contacts
  • Like
Reactions: Shirasaki

Westside guy

macrumors 603
Oct 15, 2003
The soggy side of the Pacific NW
It's been a while since I set it up, but a quick web search indicates that "Contacts Only" is the default when you enable AirDrop. I'm not sure why people would want to switch it to "Everyone", frankly... but apparently they do?
With this story, MacRumors is killing my favorite way to prove to strangers that Bigfoot is watching over them.

BigFoot has always AirDropped his photos to me directly.
  • Like
Reactions: H3LL5P4WN

Jimmy James

macrumors 603
Oct 26, 2008
It’s a “big problem” that the existing and easily accessible ‘contacts only’ setting solves. People are idiots.


macrumors 6502a
Jul 8, 2015
Melbourne Australia
I’m actually surprised at the number of people that purposely leave airdrop set to everyone... it would also use more battery even if it’s a small amount


macrumors member
May 1, 2017
so this article isn't telling us anything new. I thought there was a new feature in iOS 12.4 that can manage airdrop better..
  • Like
Reactions: jw2002


macrumors 6502a
May 29, 2018
so this article isn't telling us anything new. I thought there was a new feature in iOS 12.4 that can manage airdrop better..

Yeah it would be nice to have finer control, like just Favorites or something.
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