FaceTime bug allows people to spy on your iPhone or MacBook without your knowledge

2019.01.29
Author: Maciej Biegajewski
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FaceTime bug allows people to spy on your iPhone or MacBook without your knowledge

If you own an iPhone or a MacBook, you might want to consider switching off FaceTime: recent bug can allow the people calling you to listen to your conversations without your knowledge even if you do not answer their call.

The glitch, which was broadly publicized online Monday night after being discovered on social media, can be easily exploited. In order to access it, the caller needs to start a FaceTime video call with a chosen contact and join the call as a third party by clicking Add Person and then entering their number while the call is still “ringing”. It will automatically create a group Facetime call and answer that call for the original contact. The caller, as well as the person called, will be able to hear each other, meaning that if the recipient did not hear the incoming call, the caller can simply remain quiet and listen in on them.

If the recipient presses either the volume or power button on their iPhone, which are typically used to silence or dismiss incoming calls, the camera will be turned on with this bug letting the caller activate it – although at the same time, the audio will be disabled.

The glitch was recreated on various iPhones with an iOS 12.1 operating system on devices stretching from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone XR. It was also tested on a MacBook Pro, letting the iPhone to eavesdrop on the MacBook running the newest version of Mac OS Mojave.

The bug was not recreated on an iPad with an iOS 12.1 operating system, but owners of Apple’s tablets are advised to remain cautious until this issue is fixed.

Twitter was soon flooded with users expressing their concern and uploading videos of testing the glitch.

The bug appears to exploit Group FaceTime, an iOS 12 feature added last year to allow for FaceTime conversations with multiple people at the same time. An attempt to recreate the bug on an iPhone with iOS 11.3 that does not have Group FaceTime support failed.

Late Monday night the Apple System Status website showed that Group FaceTime was not available. Apple seems to have turned off the Group FaceTime feature. Whenever someone tries to turn a one-on-one FaceTime call into a group call, their original call gets entirely disconnected.

Normal FaceTime calls with one person at a time are still available, although the glitch did not seem to affect them.

Apple announced a fix is underway, but there is a way to disable FaceTime on your iPhone in the meantime to stop people from eavesdropping on you. You need to open Settings, go to FaceTime and toggle the button so that there is no green showing in order to turn FaceTime off.

Users of Mac with a Mojave system can switch off FaceTime by opening the FaceTime application, clicking “FaceTime” in the upper left corner and then choosing “Turn FaceTime off” from the drop down menu. This way all FaceTime calls will be stopped from coming in.

The full statement from Apple issued to CNBC and several other media outlets is as follows: “We’re aware of this issue and we have identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week.

source: CNBC, USA Today, Apple Insider