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This morning, Apple disabled group call on its FaceTime app, scrambling to repair a bug that allowed iPhone users to eavesdrop on call recipients even if they didn’t pick up. Meanwhile, the teenager who first discovered the vulnerability is now famous.
Grant Thompson, a 14-year-old high school student from Arizona, stumbled upon the glitch on Jan. 19 when he was trying to organize his friends to play Fortnite.
After his friend Nathan didn’t answer his FaceTime call, Thompson dialed up another friend only to find that he was connected with Nathan—whose phone was still ringing.
“We were pretty shocked at first because it was still ringing on his phone,” he told NBC News on Tuesday. “After that, we tested it for about half an hour to see if it worked every time.”
And it did work every time. That’s when Thompson then showed his mom, Michele Thompson.
Over the course of the week that followed, the teen and his mom tried to alert Apple to the flaw via email but to no avail. Michele then used her law firm’s letterhead in a letter sent to the company headed: “Urgent Security Issue Regarding iOS 12.1.3.”
The pair even tried Twitter to get multinational corporation’s attention.
My teen found a major security flaw in Apple’s new iOS. He can listen in to your iPhone/iPad without your approval. I have video. Submitted bug report to @AppleSupport...waiting to hear back to provide details. Scary stuff! #apple #bugreport @foxnews— MGT7 (@MGT7500) January 21, 2019
They then turned to the bounty program, which pays out big money to those able to find bugs in the company’s software. However, that avenue that also became a dead end when it required registration as a developer and technical knowledge to input details of the flaw.
Finally, making an unlisted YouTube video, the two sent the details to the press around the time a publication specializing in Apple coverage broke the story on Monday.
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Although the reporter who did break the story claims he did so independently of the Thompson video, the mom and son were able to show NBC News all their efforts to contact Apple dating back nine days.
The story was carried to other outlets from there, forcing Apple to finally see and confront the issue. Still, we think it’s only right that Apple give the kid his bounty.
David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology. He previously covered civil liberties, crime, and politics for Vice.