Apple FaceTime bug allows people to eavesdrop remotely

Apple is hurrying to fix a bug with its FaceTime video calling software that lets people hear audio from the recipient before they've accepted the call.

SAN FRANCISCO • A newly discovered 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, was 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 logged nearly two million views and was shared 14,000 times by late Monday in California.

When a phone number is dialled 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 the added caller, a group call begins even though the person being called has not answered yet.

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.

"Disable FaceTime for now until Apple fixes," Twitter co-founder and chief executive Jack Dorsey advised in a tweet.


Mr Dorsey's message included a forwarded post by technologist Andy Baio.

"Want to see a really bad bug?" Mr Baio asked in his post. "You can FaceTime any iOS device running 12.1 and listen in remotely - WITHOUT THE OTHER PERSON ANSWERING THE CALL."

An Apple statement quoted in United States media said it was aware of the issue and has "identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week".

An Apple support page also listed Group FaceTime calling as "temporarily unavailable" due to an ongoing "issue".

Users can disable FaceTime on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches in settings and on the Mac under the Preferences tab in the FaceTime application.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement saying the "FaceTime bug is an egregious breach of privacy that puts New Yorkers at risk". He said he is concerned that the flaw could be "exploited for unscrupulous purposes".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2019, with the headline 'Apple FaceTime bug allows people to eavesdrop remotely'. Subscribe