PrivateDrop: Practical Privacy-Preserving Authentication for Apple AirDrop


Alexander Heinrich, Matthias Hollick, Thomas Schneider, Milan Stute, and Christian Weinert, TU Darmstadt


Apple's offline file-sharing service AirDrop is integrated into more than 1.5 billion end-user devices worldwide. We discovered two design flaws in the underlying protocol that allow attackers to learn the phone numbers and email addresses of both sender and receiver devices. As a remediation, we study the applicability of private set intersection (PSI) to mutual authentication, which is similar to contact discovery in mobile messengers. We propose a novel optimized PSI-based protocol called PrivateDrop that addresses the specific challenges of offline resource-constrained operation and integrates seamlessly into the current AirDrop protocol stack. Using our native PrivateDrop implementation for iOS and macOS, we experimentally demonstrate that PrivateDrop preserves AirDrop's exemplary user experience with an authentication delay well below one second. We responsibly disclosed our findings to Apple and open-sourced our PrivateDrop implementation.

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@inproceedings {272254,
title = {PrivateDrop: Practical Privacy-Preserving Authentication for Apple AirDrop},
booktitle = {30th {USENIX} Security Symposium ({USENIX} Security 21)},
year = {2021},
url = {},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
month = aug,