Beware Apple’s Eavesdropping Bug

By Tracey Dowdy

If you have a Mac or an iPhone, you may want to turn off FaceTime. A bug discovered by 9to5Mac has revealed that callers can access the recipient’s microphone and front-facing video camera even if that person hasn’t picked up the call. When the bug is activated, the caller can hear live audio on the recipient’s phone, although the recipient’s screen does not indicate that the conversation is being transmitted. In some cases, the bug can also show live video of the other person if they press a volume button to dismiss the call.

Exploiting the bug is easy. Make a FaceTime call, swipe up to add a person, and then enter your phone number to start a group FaceTime call and automatically answer the call for the first person. Both caller and recipient will then be able to hear one another or eavesdrop on the recipient if the caller stays quiet.

Even trickier, pressing the volume or power button on the recipient’s iPhone won’t dismiss the call, but turn on the camera and allow the caller to activate your camera — though doing this will disable the audio.

 Devices impacted by the software glitch include Apple PCs running macOS Mojave (with the recently added Group FaceTime feature), and iPhones and iPads running iOS 12.1. A video from Benji Mobb™ showing the steps required to trigger the bug went viral on Twitter and Snapchat.

A spokesperson for Apple issued a statement that the company is “aware of this issue and we have identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week.”

In the meantime, Apple has started disabling the Group FaceTime feature for all users, though users should be aware that the issue could still impact one-on-one FaceTime calls.

In the meantime, here’s how to disable FaceTime on your Apple device:

  • Go to Settings on your iPhone or iPad
  • Scroll down and select FaceTime
  • Toggle off the green button at the top of the screen.
  • To turn it off on a Mac, follow these steps:
  • Go to the FaceTime app
  • Go to FaceTime on top of the screen
  • Click on “Turn FaceTime Off.”

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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