FaceTime eavesdropping bug causing worry, but Apple says a fix is in progress

FaceTime bug (FOX 8 photo).
FaceTime bug (FOX 8 photo).(Source: FOX 8 photo)
Published: Jan. 29, 2019 at 6:39 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Apple product owners are being advised to to disable their FaceTime app, after a bug was discovered that allows people to eavesdrop when they call you, when if you don’t answer. Apple is working on a fix and said it will be ready by the end of the week.

Cyber security expert Nam Nguyen said the glitch stems from a feature Apple introduced a few months ago to allow FaceTime calls with multiple people.

“You set up a FaceTime call with somebody, and while it’s ringing, you can swipe up and add a caller, or add another person to the call. And when you do that, the instructions say add yourself to it, and it will call yourself and it will basically start transmitting sound," Nguyen said. “It seems like a lot of people are concerned about eavesdropping, especially how easy it seems to be."

Not only can the caller hear audio from someone else’s phone before that person has accepted or rejected the incoming call, but if the person receiving the call then hits the power button, the caller can actually see that person’s video.

The glitch has some regular FaceTime users worried, like Jaida Maller, Lindsey Hoffman and Noah Melnick.

“Which is kind of scary in case like, you’re having a private conversation before someone else answers and like, if they can hear that,” Maller said.

But not everyone has experienced the bug.

“Me and my friends decided to try it, and actually, we couldn’t get it to work,” Melnick said.

Nguyen tried it out too, but it didn’t work for her either.

“We would FaceTime call, we would scroll up, add a person, I’d add myself,” Nguyen said.

Apple’s website shows that the group FaceTime feature has been deactivated, but Apple is updating the software as another layer of security.

As a tool that is often used by many businesses, the bug has caused concern over more than just personal conversations being overheard.

“I’ve been in plenty of meetings where everybody has an iPhone, and those meetings were confidential. So, just having my phone in my pocket, and somebody being able to listen in on my conversations, that would be pretty concerning,” Nguyen said.

Apple recommends users disable FaceTime on their Apple devices until its permanently fixed.

“It’s definitely really concerning, and I turned my FaceTime off so hopefully nothing happens,” Hoffman said.

Apple said the updated software will be available later this week and users will have to download it to their devices.

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