Life Tech Apple to patch alarming bug in video call feature

Apple to patch alarming bug in video call feature

Apple says an update to the Facetime app, that allows people to eavesdrop, will be rolled out this week. Photo: Getty
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An Apple software update will soon be released to dismantle a bug that allowed iPhone users to listen in on conversations.

Apple rushed to remedy a FaceTime bug that enabled an iPhone user placing a call using Apple’s FaceTime video calling feature to hear audio from the recipient’s phone even if the recipient has not yet picked up the call.

It announced a software patch will be available for download later this week after disabling the group calling feature in its FaceTime calling service on Monday.

“We’re aware of this issue and we have identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement.

By disabling that feature at the source, the company appears to have prevented any further exploitation of the bug.

Apple announced the feature last summer but then removed it from early test versions of its iOS 12 operating system. Apple released the feature to the public in late October.

Despite the temporary removal of the group service, users of FaceTime are still able to continue using the one-to-one FaceTime function.

Not all FaceTime users were affected by the flaw.

FaceTime allows for eavesdropping on their devices when a user making a call and the person on the receiving end are running version 12.1 of Apple’s mobile operating system iOS, or newer.

Mac users who are called from an iPhone can also give way to eavesdropping.

The technique involved using the software’s group chat function, apparently confusing the software into activating the target’s microphone, even if the call has not been accepted.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the The FaceTime bug was “an egregious breach of privacy that puts New Yorkers at risk”, urging resident to “disable their FaceTime app until a fix is made available”.

“In New York, we take consumer rights very seriously and I am deeply concerned by this irresponsible bug that can be exploited for unscrupulous purposes,” he said.

-with agencies

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