Apple Inc. has suspended use of the popular FaceTime app after a bug was discovered which allows users to eavesdrop on call recipients before they answer the call. The bug appears to affect any Apple user running the device with an iOS 12.1 or later, according to 9to5mac.com. Ironically, the bug was discovered on Monday, which–according to a Tweet from Apple CEO Tim Cook–is international Data Privacy Day.
We must keep fighting for the kind of world we want to live in. On this #DataPrivacyDay let us all insist on action and reform for vital privacy protections. The dangers are real and the consequences are too important.
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) January 28, 2019
To exploit the bug, a user must first initiate a FaceTime call on their iPhone. Once the call begins to ring, the user needs to swipe up on their screen and tap the “Add Person” button. Then, the user simply adds his or her own number to the call and they will begin to receive audio from the recipient’s phone. The recipient’s phone will be ringing as well, giving them some warning that the caller is attempting to either legitimately contact them or is eavesdropping.
Here’s the bug in action, recorded prior to Apple’s suspension of the app.
Now you can answer for yourself on FaceTime even if they don’t answer pic.twitter.com/7PIWE7aW7m
— 24/7 HipHop News (@BenjaminEnfield) January 29, 2019
The bug utilizes the FaceTime app’s Group FaceTime feature, which was launched in October of 2018, according to a press release from Apple. Although Apple has deactivated the app, the tech juggernaut has stated it intends to have the bug removed through an update which should be available later this week.
“We’re aware of this issue and we have identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week,” Apple said via a statement on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The discovery of this bug comes at a time when users are hyper-aware of the possible security and privacy concerns associated with smartphones. According to a report from eSecurityPlanet, the real threat is from applications, not the physical phone itself. However, this latest bug is exposing the dangers stemming from the actual device and its operating system.
While Apple has dominated the smartphone market for some time, experts speculate this latest bug could cause catastrophic damage to the company. Last year’s release of the iPhone XS was met with less-than-enthusiastic reviews, and according to the AP, the company has downgraded its expected earnings report for the last quarter of 2018. The company should be releasing its latest earnings report on Tuesday.