3 Steps to Protect Yourself Against the iPhone's Major FaceTime Bug

The bug enables users to eavesdrop on others.

A major flaw in Apple’s software publicized Monday enables attackers to listen in on other people’s real-world conversations. The Group FaceTime bug allows a third party to start calling a device and force it to activate the microphone, despite the recipient not accepting the call. A variation on the flaw can also lead to users unwittingly sharing their camera video.

“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 tells Inverse. The company’s Group FaceTime servers have also been taken offline ahead of the release.

The flaw means a user can start a FaceTime video call with a recipient and, while it’s still calling the other user, swipe up and select “Add Person” to add themselves to the call. This starts a Group FaceTime call with yourself and the recipient even though the other user has yet to reject or accept the call. If the other user presses the power or volume switch, which usually silences a call, the attacker can also see the recipient’s video.

Group FaceTime first launched on October 30 with iOS 12.1. The feature enables 32-person video calls for the first time since FaceTime originally launched in 2010. While it runs on all devices that can run iOS 12, older devices will only be able to join as audio participants: iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, the iPad Mini 2 and 3, original iPad Air and the latest-generation of iPod touch.

Group FaceTime may not work on your phone.
Group FaceTime may not work on your phone.

Here’s how to protect against the flaw:

3. Switch Off FaceTime

While Apple has taken the Group FaceTime servers offline, 9to5Mac reports that it can still replicate the issue. This means it may not be safe to completely depend on the server status for security.

Turning off Apple’s feature is simple. On iOS:

  • Visit the “Settings” app.
  • Visit “FaceTime.”
  • Slide the green switch.

This will, as expected, have the unfortunate side-effect of removing the ability to place FaceTime calls.

2. Wait

Apple plans to release an update later this week to fix the issue. The company has acted swiftly in the past to serious flaws, like the black dot bug last year that saw a fix enter the beta stage in May 2018.

1. Update Your Devices As Soon As Possible

When the software update goes live, users can request an immediate fix by following these steps:

  • Visit the “Settings” app.
  • Visit “General.”
  • Visit “Software Update.”

iOS will try to make room for the update if device storage is low. If that fails, users can update via iTunes:

  • Use a USB cable to plug your device into a computer running the latest version of iTunes.
  • Click on your device, then click “Check for Updates.”
  • Follow the on-screen instructions. to download and install.
Apple Details Its Performance Boosts for Older Phones on iOS 12