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How to Stop People from Sending You Files Without Consent


It’s official — everything’s gone digital. Cyberflashing is now a thing. Apparently, creeps are using features like Airdrop to spam people with unwanted nudes. You could just be sitting on the bus and get flashed… digitally. One woman on an airplane found a man trying to send her photos throughout her flight. What ups the creep factor is people need to be in their victim’s immediate vicinity to be able to do this. 

It’s not just creepy predators. Pranksters are also sending unwanted memes and files to unsuspecting people. They’re capitalizing on people who may have left the feature on. It’s simple to forget that some of these features give access to your device. You also may not be aware of what you are potentially sharing. Your name can be listed on your device and it’s simple enough for someone to decide to mess with you.  

This might not seem like a serious issue. After all, you still have to accept the file transfer. But you should also be able to enjoy your ride without being cyberflashed. It’s also more common for this to happen to women and is a high-tech form of sexual harassment.

But being inundated with unwanted and harassing messages without your consent is luckily within your control. 

How to turn off sharing features on your devices

Features like AirDrop, Nearby Share (Android), and Nearby Sharing (Windows) make it easy for you to share files via Bluetooth. This makes sense if you need to share a presentation with a co-worker or partner, share files between two devices you own, or want to share music or videos among the family. But people are starting to use this feature to harass others. 

The simplest way to keep strangers from sending you files is to simply turn off Bluetooth on your device. That can provide you with more security and peace of mind. But you may need Bluetooth to sync to your earbuds or other devices. So you’ll have to dive into specific sharing features instead. 

Airdrop on iPhones/iPads

To manage your Airdrop settings go to Settings. Select General then AirDrop. To turn off the feature entirely select Receiving Off. You can also select Contacts Only which will sync up with contacts stored on your device. The third option is Everyone which is what allows people to use this feature to harass you. 

Airdrop on macOS

Open up a Finder window. From there you should see Airdrop as an option. From the AirDrop menu, you can click Allow me to be discovered by. You will be able to select from the same 3 options as with the iPhone. You can select No One, Contacts Only, and Everyone. It may be a good idea to select No One unless you actively use the Airdrop feature. Being able to view your device can make your device more susceptible to cyber attack.

Windows Nearby Sharing 

This feature, like Airdrop, is only accessible by other Windows devices. You can find the option in the Settings menu under System and Shared experiences.

Under Nearby Sharing, you’ll see a switch to turn the feature on or off. You can also use the drop-down menu to select: Everyone nearby and My devices only

You will still have the option to approve any connections but if you’d like your computer to not be visible select My devices only

Android Nearby Share 

You can find Nearby Share under Settings, then select Google, then Devices & Sharing. From this screen, tap Nearby Share. You can use the toggle switch to turn it off. 

If you want to use Nearby Share, you can select Device visibility then choose from All contacts, Some contacts, and Hidden. With the Some contacts feature you can select who you want to. 

All of these features will still open a dialogue even if you have it set to anyone being able to share with you. But they often show a thumbnail of the image which is kind of what makes it harassing. By eliminating the ability to be seen, you also eliminate who can look at your files, learn your name or device name, and target you for harassment. 

Now you know how to better protect yourself from cybercreeps and random pranksters. And you also may be aware of a feature you’ve never used before. So here’s hoping you use this to be more aware of ways your device can be visible, accessible, and potentially open to attack.

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