SAN FRANCISCO: A newly discovered FaceTime bug lets people hear and even see those they are reaching out to on iPhones even if the other person hasn’t answered their phone.
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 the caller then enters their own number as that of the added caller, a group call begins even though the person being called hasn’t even answered.
The caller can then eavesdrop on the person being called, and in some demonstrations even watch them through the camera app. Declining a call breaks the connection.
The bug, initially outlined by Apple product and review website 9to5Mac.com, 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 evening in California.
Some Twitter users offered advice to disable the FaceTime application until a fix was in place.
An Apple support page listed Group FaceTime calling as “temporarily unavailable” as of 7:16 PM here (03:16 GMT) due to an ongoing “issue” that was not specified.
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.”
“Disable FaceTime for now until Apple fixes,” Twitter co-founder and chief executive Jack Dorsey advised in a tweet.
Dorsey’s message included a forwarded post by technologist Andy Baio.
“Want to see a really bad bug?” 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.”
Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
FaceTime software enables voice or video calls using iPhones, iPads, iPod Touch, and Macintosh computers.
How to turn off FaceTime and avoid the eavesdropping bug
The glitch impacts iPhones and iPads running iOS 12.1, and Apple PCs running macOS Mojave with the newly added Group FaceTime feature.
Apple confirmed it and started disabling the Group FaceTime feature for all users, but the issue may, however, impact one-on-one FaceTime calls.
Until the bug is resolved, here s how to disable FaceTime on your Apple device:
Open Settings on your iPhone or iPad
Scroll down and select FaceTime
Toggle off the green button at the top of the screen.
To turn it off on a Mac, follow these steps:
Open the FaceTime app
Go to FaceTime on top of the screen
Select “Turn FaceTime Off.”
When the bug is activated, the person who initiated the call is able to hear the live audio on the other person s phone, but the screen gives no indication that their conversation is being transmitted. In some cases, the bug can also show live video of the other person if they press a volume button to dismiss the call.