A security glitch in Apple’s FaceTime app is letting people hear the other person they’re calling even if the call has not been accepted. In some cases, the glitch also allows users to see real-time video of the people they are calling. The bug was discovered and widely reported on Monday, and was later confirmed by a number of technology reporters. Apple doesn’t have a permanent fix for the issue at the moment. The company, however, says that it’s working on it and until a solution is found, all FaceTime group calls will be disabled.
Apple prides itself as the champion of strong privacy safeguards with its devices. These recent reports come as a big surprise for most people. The glitch also comes as people continue to get conscious of their privacy after a series of major privacy scandals were reported in recent months. The bug was first reported by the online publication 9to5Mac.
However, there are a series of steps you’d actually have to follow in order to experience it. But it’s not something as complex as it seems. First, the user has to make a FaceTime video call. Once the call is on, add your own phone number immediately. This basically tricks the iPhone into starting a group FaceTime video call. It then activates the other person’s audio. In case the recipient of the call hits the volume or power button, the phone will start broadcasting video. Essentially, it’s possible to listen to the person that you’re calling or spy on his or her conversation without them even knowing it.
There’s no way to defend against this at the moment. In fact, until Apple fixes the bug, you have to assume that there have been people listening in on your private conversations using this trick. But in case you’re yet to upgrade to iOS 12.1, perhaps you’re safe. Reports so far indicate that the bug only affects iPhones running iOS 12.1 which introduced group calling.
Apple noted in a statement to media outlets that it’s aware of the problem. The company also added that it’s already working on a fix which should be out through a software update later in the week. It’s not clear for how long this vulnerability was present and whether there are people out there who have already fallen victim to it. But most tech experts assume that the bug must have been there right from the time that group calls were introduced on FaceTime. This was about three months ago so it’s possible that the glitch has been exploited during that time.
The markets are yet to respond to the news though but this is a real concern for Wall Street. Apple is already walking a tightrope in the markets after it announced lower revenue expectations a few weeks ago. The last thing the company needed was a privacy scandal. Apple is trying to fix this issue very quickly and hopefully no damage has been caused as a result of the glitch.