iPhone FaceTime bug: how to protect yourself from eavesdroppers

A newly discovered Group FaceTime bug lets people hear and even see those they are reaching out to on iPhones using the video calling software, sparking privacy fears.

The bug, initially outlined by Apple product and review website 9to5Mac.com, has been reported by several media outlets.

A video posted at Twitter account @BmManski showing how simple it is to take advantage of the flaw and listen in on an iPhone being called using FaceTime has logged more than 3m views and been shared 23k times.

Now you can answer for yourself on FaceTime even if they don’t answer🤒#Apple explain this.. pic.twitter.com/gr8llRKZxJ— Benji Mobb™ (@BmManski) January 28, 2019

HOW THE BUG WORKS

When a phone number is dialed on FaceTime — the iPhone’s internet-based voice and video calling feature — the caller can swipe up from the bottom of the screen and tap an option to add a person, according to video demonstrations.

If a caller enters their number as also being an added caller, a Group FaceTime call begins even though the person being called has not answered yet.

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The caller can then eavesdrop on the person being called, and in some demonstrations peek through the front-facing camera. Declining a call breaks the connection.

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY

An Apple statement quoted in US media said the iPhone maker was aware of this issue and has “identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week”.

9to5Mac.com has since reported that Apple has taken Group FaceTime offline but, possibly due to the “change taking time to propagate to all servers”, some people are still able to take advantage of the bug.

To protect your privacy, 9to5Mac.com and various Twitter users have suggested disabling the FaceTime application until a permanent fix is in place. 

WATCH | How to disable FaceTime on your iPhone

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