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FaceTime bug lets others eavesdrop on your calls

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Apple has acknowledged the vulnerability.

A FaceTime bug allows iPhone users to call another iPhone or Mac and hear the recipient’s audio before they even accept or reject the call, 9to5mac.com reports.

The website included steps to recreate the bug, which can be triggered when you access FaceTime’s group call feature and then add your own phone number. Writer Benjamin Mayo notes that the bug only works when you FaceTime someone whose OS supports the group feature. Engineering Manager Erica Baker has confirmed in a tweet that the bug also exists in MacOS.

It was later discovered that the flaw applies to video too: If the recipient attempts to reject the call by pressing the power or volume button, both audio and video from the recipient’s front-facing iPhone camera are broadcast to the caller without their knowledge, both the Verge and BuzzFeed confirmed.

As news of the bug began to spread online late Monday, an Apple spokesperson issued a statement: “We’re aware of this issue and we have identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week.”

FaceTime bug

Apple has temporarily disabled group FaceTime until further notice. It’s now listed on its System Status page as “temporarily unavailable,” CNET reported.

We remember how people were quick to make jokes when Apple first announced FaceTime group calls. Well, nobody’s laughing now. This bug could have existed for three months since group FaceTime was introduced on Oct. 30 along with iOS 12.1 following a delay, warns the Verge.

Websites that have reported on the bug have encouraged readers to temporarily disable FaceTime. CNET outlined steps to doing this on different devices.

Even Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) has issued a consumer alert late Monday on the bug that is “an egregious breach of privacy that puts New Yorkers at risk.” He advised all “New Yorkers to disable their FaceTime app until a fix is made available, and I urge Apple to release the fix without delay.”

Cybersecurity specialist Marcus J. Carey, tech writer Andy Baio, and YouTuber Marques Brownlee are among the experts who warned users about FaceTime’s risks and encouraged people to disable it.

It’s like people’s worst nightmares about their iPhones have come to life. Naturally, Twitter had a meltdown, imagining the ways this FaceTime bug could ruin their lives and relationships.

“Imagine hanging out with your boyfriend and your husband calls on FaceTime with the new bug,” user @Wiintrr tweeted.

https://twitter.com/DreDaTopic/status/1090112767888113664

Users like @bmmanski are clamoring for an explanation from Apple:

This couldn’t have come at worse time for Apple. Just before the bug went viral online, CEO Tim Cook tweeted that we must “all insist on action and reform for vital privacy protections. The dangers are real and the consequences are too important,” in time for Data Privacy Day on Monday. It was also discovered the day before Apple is set to report its quarterly earnings on Tuesday, following initial warnings from Cook that iPhone sales have tanked, according to CNET. To think Apple also only recently addressed a FaceTime security bug that let hackers make a FaceTime call from an iPhone, BuzzFeed points out.

Apple’s recent CES banner that proclaimed “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone” apparently no longer rings true.

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Trixie Reyna

Trixie Reyna

Trixie Reyna-Benedicto is a lifestyle editor and writer based in the Philippines. Previously, she helmed Cosmopolitan Philippines’ website, Cosmo.ph, as its founding editor. She later served as editor-in-chief of lifestyle and entertainment portals for Manila-based media company TV5. Her work has appeared in several print and online publications in her country, and she contributes to Speed Magazine, DG Traveler, and Connected Women, among others. Visit her website, trixiereyna.com.