Home How-To-Guides Understanding and Preventing Unauthorized Tracking with Find My: What the 'Unknown Accessory Detected' Alert Means

Understanding and Preventing Unauthorized Tracking with Find My: What the 'Unknown Accessory Detected' Alert Means

Posted: November 15, 2023

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Meaning of "Unknown Accessory Detected" Alert

The "Unknown Accessory Detected" alert is a notification from Apple's Find My network on your iPhone. This alert is intended to inform you that an accessory or device that doesn't belong to you is nearby and may potentially communicate your location to another party. This function forms part of Apple's ongoing commitment to user privacy. It's important to note that while the alert might be disconcerting, it does not immediately indicate a threat.

Devices and Accessories Associated With the Alert

The alert is triggered due to a nearby device or companionable accessory with the Find My network. Products such as AirPods or other Find My compatible devices will trigger this alert if their presence is detected around you. However, it should be noted that the alert specifically states "Unknown Accessory" because the application struggles to connect with the device or server and hence cannot recognize the product.

Misinterpretation of the Alert

At first sight, this alert may cause some panic or confusion, but it does not necessarily indicate malicious intent or immediate danger. A common misunderstanding is that an 'Unknown Accessory Detected' alert signifies an AirTag tracking you, but this is untrue. There exists a separate alert for AirTag detection.

Different Types of Alerts for Different Find My Products

Different alerts can be emitted depending on the type of device or accessory being detected by the Find My app. An 'Unknown Accessory Detected' alert focuses specifically on unidentified accessories like AirPods or any other Apple accessory compatible with the Find My network detected in your vicinity. In contrast, if an AirTag is tracking you, a separate and distinct alert is generated for it.

Prevent Unauthorized Tracking

In response to the potential misuse of AirTags and other Find My network-enabled devices, Apple has designed a warning system to deter illegal tracking and help safeguard user privacy. It helps ensure that you are informed if a device separated from its owner has been moving with you over an extended period.

Warning System by Apple to Prevent Misuse of Find My Network

The built-in warning system is Apple's solution to the potential misuse of the Find My Network. By detecting and alerting users of any unknown tracking device, Apple aims to discourage people from exploiting the network to unbeknownst track others. This preventive mechanism showcases Apple's commitment to preserving the privacy and security of its users.

Available Notification Tracking Feature

The Notification tracking feature is a significant update with iOS and iPadOS 14.5 and later. Users receive alerts whenever an unknown Find My network-enabled device is discovered tracking their location without their knowledge or consent. This feature lends an additional layer of security for Apple device users.

Steps to Enable Tracking Notifications on iPhone

Enabling the Tracking Notifications on your iPhone is a straightforward task. Follow these steps:

  • Open the Settings app on your iPhone and head to the Privacy & Security option.
  • Tap on the Location Services option and enable the Location Services toggle.
  • Scroll down to the System Services option. On the resulting screen, enable the Find My iPhone toggle.
  • Head back to Settings and tap on Your Name at the top. Here, select the Find My option.
  • On the next screen, tap the Find My iPhone option and turn on the Find My iPhone toggle.
  • Now, open the Find My app and tap the Me tab at the bottom right corner.
  • Select the Customize Tracking Notifications option and enable the Allow Notifications toggle on the next screen. It will notify you if an unknown device is moving with you.

These steps will greatly aid in preventing unwanted tracking by unknown Find My network-enabled devices.

Methods to Locate the Tracking Device

After the 'Unknown Accessory Detected' alert pops on your screen, you can employ a couple of methods using your iPhone's features to locate the device. You can use the security alert feature and the Find My app, both equipped with useful tools such as the Play Sound button and the U1 Ultra Wideband chip (UWB).

Utilizing the Security Alert Feature

Upon receiving the 'Unknown Accessory Detected' alert, tapping on the security alert and then the 'Continue' option will lead to a series of on-screen instructions designed to assist you in locating the tracking device. It is a safe, effective, and user-friendly way to spot unwanted devices.

Using the Find My App

The Find My app is a valuable tool for locating an unknown accessory tracking you. The app reveals the location of the unknown device and offers multiple tools to aid in finding it. Navigating the Find My app allows you to track and manage your devices, ensuring your privacy and safety.

Role of the Play Sound Button

The Play Sound button is a functional feature accessible from the security alert or the Find My app. After selecting the Play Sound button, the locatable device - if within a reachable distance - emits a sound, enabling quicker and easier detection. The ability to replay the sound aids in persistent attempts to locate the device, especially if the initial sounds are indistinct or muffled.

How to Use U1 Ultra Wideband Chip (UWB)

If the unknown accessory is UWB-enabled, like an AirTag or AirPods Pro (USB C), you can use your iPhone's U1 Ultra Wideband chip to discern its location. After tapping on the 'Find Nearby' option, guidance in the form of on-screen instructions will direct you to the unknown device. Your iPhone will display the distance and direction to the device, assisting in a quicker location of the device. If your iPhone is within Bluetooth range of the device, you can use the Play Sound option for audible assistance. The U1 Ultra Wideband chip makes finding and removing unwanted tracking devices from your vicinity easier.

Steps After Locating The Device

After successfully locating the device triggering the 'Unknown Accessory Detected' alert, the next steps involve gathering necessary information, disabling the unwanted device - especially if it's an AirTag, contacting the owner if required, and removing the battery of the AirTag. These measures prevent any further disturbances or unwarranted tracking alerts.

Gathering Information from an AirTag

If the located device happens to be an AirTag, hold the top of your iPhone or your NFC-enabled smartphone over the white side of the discovered AirTag. A notification should surface on your iPhone; tap it. It will redirect you to a webpage that stocks information about AirTag. You can find crucial details such as the AirTag's serial number and the last four digits of the owner's contact number.

Steps to Disable the Unknown Device

If you wish to halt the alerts emanating from the located device - particularly if it's an AirTag - feel free to disable it. Navigate to the website with the AirTag information and tap the 'Instructions to disable' option. Following these displayed steps, disable the device to stop the unwelcome tracking and alerts.

Viewing the Owner's Information and Contacting the Owner if Necessary

In some situations, you may be able to identify the owner by the details gained from the AirTag. After you have accessed the information gathered from the device, you may recognize the person from the last four digits of the registered owner's number. If the AirTag is marked as lost, the page may showcase an option to contact the owner. It can be useful in returning the device to its rightful proprietor, thus aiding unfortunate product losses during travel or otherwise.

How to Remove AirTag's Battery

In your pursuit to disable the AirTag, you'll be required to remove its battery. To do this, push down and twist anti-clockwise on the back of the AirTag. It will allow you to access and remove the battery effectively. After removing the battery, you will effectively terminate any signals the AirTag sends to the Find My network, thus eliminating potential tracking or unwanted alerts.