Apple’s Group FaceTime: A place for spies?

Apple’s Group FaceTime: A place for spies?

Apple has disabled Group FaceTime following discovery of a flaw that could potentially let people hear audio from other people’s devices without permission. What’s going on and what can you do about it?

The Group FaceTime bug, in brief

9to5Mac report based on a video published to Twitter by @BmManski that revealed this flaw lets a user listen to audio captured using another person’s device before they accept or reject the call requesting a FaceTime chat. The problem affects only iOS devices running iOS 12.1 or later (pending an update).

What Apple said

In a statement, Apple said it is “Aware of this issue… we have identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week.”

How the Group FaceTime bug works

  • Start a FaceTime Video call with an iPhone contact.
  • While the call is dialling, swipe up and tap Add Person.
  • Add your own number in the subsequent screen.
  • You will enter a Group FaceTime call, which will feature audio captured by the device belonging to the person you have called, even if they haven’t accepted the call (ie. their iPhone is still ringing).

It appears video captured by the iPhone’s front-facing camera can also be picked up, but only if the person you are contacting taps the Power button on the LockScreen.

How to prevent the Group FaceTime bug

Apple has effectively disabled the bug by switching off its Group FaceTime service pending a software patch. Meanwhile users who are concerned about the problem may want to disable FaceTime on their devices.

  • Disable on iOS: System Settings>FaceTime> Toggle to off.
  • Disable on Mac: Open FaceTime and Turn FaceTime Off in the menu.

It is important to note that no one has claimed this fault impacts Macs.

What is Apple doing to fix the Group FaceTime problem?

Apple says it will publish a software update to address this bug in the next few days. It has disabled Group FaceTime pending that fix, which is expected to appear later this week.

Should we panic?

No. This minor bug will be quashed quickly. It also seems important to note that the audio/video remains available for only a short time while the recipient device rings. The feed stops once the call is rejected.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.


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