The news went viral this week when a FaceTime bug was discovered that made it possible to listen in on, or even see someone, during a Group FaceTime call, even if the person receiving the call didn’t pick up. There’s a temporary fix in place, with a permanent solution promised by Apple to be coming next week. Meanwhile, here’s how this happened, and what you should do.
Earlier this month, a 14-year-old in Arizona discovered while gaming with his friends that he was able to eavesdrop on his friend’s phone when he used the FaceTime group function before his friend had even answered the call. According to a story in the New York Times, his mother immediately reached out to Apple to warn the company of a “major security flaw” that exposed millions of iPhone users to eavesdropping. When she didn’t hear from Apple Support, she did everything she could, including emailing and faxing Apple’s security team, and posting to Twitter and Facebook. But it wasn’t until more than a week later, when an article reported the flaw via a news site for Apple fans, that Apple finally reacted by disabling Group FaceTime and announcing plans for a permanent solution next week.
The bug, and Apple’s slow response to patching it, have renewed concerns about the company’s commitment to security, even though it regularly boasts about the safety of its products. The company issued a full apology and statement, thanking the young boy’s family for bringing it to attention, promising to improve the bug-reporting process, and that they remain dedicated to protecting the security of their products.
For anyone who uses FaceTime, you should notice that for now the Group FaceTime function has been disabled while they work on the permanent fix. This prevents anyone from taking advantage of this flaw. There’s no reason to think you can’t go back to using Group FaceTime once you’ve received the update, but if you want to look into alternatives for video calls, you can check out options like Facebook Messenger or Skype.