'Cyber-flasher' highlights need to know your phone settings

Whole new categories of cyber-crime are being created, and as well as entirely new offences, digital technology offers new ways to commit old crimes. The latest, reported by the BBC today, was instantly understood when dubbed ‘Cyber-flashing'.

Train commuter Lorraine Crighton-Smith received two pictures of an unknown man's penis on her phone as she travelled to work on a train in south London. But what's different is that she received it via Apple's Airdrop sharing function, and that she reported it to the British Transport Police (BTP), telling the BBC that she felt "violated."  

The broadcaster reported how investigating officer Supt Gill Murray said that the force had dealt with cases involving Bluetooth but an incident via Airdrop was "new to us", and urged people to report any other incidents.

Crighton-Smith was reported as saying: "I had Airdrop switched on because I had been using it previously to send photos to another iPhone user - and a picture appeared on the screen of a man's penis, which I was quite shocked by.

"So, I declined the image, instinctively, and another image appeared, at which [point] I realised someone nearby must be sending them, and that concerned me. I felt violated, it was a very unpleasant thing to have forced upon my screen.`

"I was also worried about who else might have been a recipient, it might have been a child, someone more vulnerable than me. My name on Airdrop says Lorraine so they knew they were sending it to a woman. The images were of a sexual nature and it was distressing."

Crighton-Smith did not "accept" the photograph so there was no technological evidence, which hindered BTP's investigation.  Remain calm, retain the image and report the matter to police as soon as possible was Murray's advice.  She told the media: "We have a dedicated Cyber Crime Unit who can analyse mobile phones and track data transfers back to suspects' devices. By linking this to physical evidence, such as CCTV footage or witness statements, we can catch offenders and bring them to justice through the courts."

Mark James, security specialist at ESET UK, explained in an email to SCMagazineUK.com  that “AirDrop is not turned on by default, but it's easy to set AirDrop to receive from Everyone, and then forget all about it. The real blame here lies with those who are sending the dirty pictures. To block receiving files from complete strangers, iPhone users would be wise to change their AirDrop settings to receive from no one or just those people listed in the Contacts list.” (the latter being the default setting).