Monday, 4 February 2019

In a Stumble for Apple, a FaceTime Bug Lets iPhone Users Eavesdrop

FaceTime Bug
A critical flaw allows eavesdropping on other FaceTime users, very easily. Apple has disabled one of its communication software features while waiting to deploy a patch. For three months, it has been possible for others to activate the microphone and camera of your iPhone remotely. The major bug in the FaceTime app was revealed on Monday, January 28th.

As reported by the US site 9to5Mac, the software flaw results from the group call function set up by Apple in October with the update iOS 12.1 to call up to 32 people simultaneously. It allows anyone to spy on a contact whose iPhone is running iOS 12.1 or later, even if they decline their call.

The major security flaw allowing eavesdropping affects the latest version of iOS. This bug has just been detected. It appeared with one of the new tools introduced on iOS 12, the group video call on FaceTime.

With this FaceTime bug, users can remotely listen to conversations on other iPhones even before their call is accepted. Even more disturbing, this critical flaw is easily exploitable and has been reproduced by many users on social networks, and Apple has already recognized the problem.

Unfortunately, since Facetime is not yet an App on the App Store, it will probably have to wait until an update of iOS. While waiting to deploy a patch, Apple has decided to suspend group calls on FaceTime. This will naturally limit the exploitation of this flaw.

This is not the first time that Apple has recognized a significant security breach in one of its systems. In November 2017, MacOS High Sierra allowed you to log in to a protected session as an administrator without a password. A fix was deployed the next day.

How does the fault work? 


A video posted on Twitter shows how the FaceTime bug works. An iPhone user initiates a FaceTime call and then inputs own number into the field dedicated to adding other participants to the conversation. The recipient’s microphone then starts, without even answering the call.

Internet users also noticed that it was possible to activate the front camera if the recipient pressed the power button or volume of his iPhone, a manipulation that usually ignores the call. These two bugs have also been observed on Macs.

When you call someone from FaceTime, and before they answer, you can drag the screen up to add another person to the conversation. This third person can be your own phone number.

That’s when a group video conference starts with the audio turned on. The first called number can then be listened to without having to accept the conversation. The transmitted sound is bi-directional, the added person can therefore also listen to the exchange.

How to disable FaceTime on your iPhone or iPad? 


Even though Apple has disabled Group Facetime from their server it is recommended that you manually disable it. You can easily disable FaceTime on your iPhone or iPad. Open the Settings and locate Facetime. Slide the toggle from green to grey to switch off Facetime.

Apple has said in a comment to Buzzfeed that they are aware of the bug and will issue a patch later in the week to fix it.

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