February 11, 2019

Update Your iPhone To iOS 12.1.4 To Avoid Eavesdropping Bug

Last week a teenager discovered a huge bug in Group FaceTime that allowed users to eavesdrop on other users. The bug allowed the eavesdropping to occur by changing the call to a group call before the other person answered.

Today Apple released an update to iOS to fix the FaceTime bug. iOS 12.1.4 is now rolling out to all users. Group FaceTime has not been re-activated yet. It was shut down after extensive reporting of the bug and how to activate it made its way onto the internet.

When an iPhone is upgraded to 12.1.4, it is possible that Group FaceTime will be re-enabled. Apple waited a few days before it directly addressed the issue to the public. The patch notes for iOS 12.1.4 mention this is a critical security update and is "recommended for all users."

Last Friday, Apple stated to several sites saying the GroupFaceTime bug has been fixed on their servers. Apple took the time to publicly thank 14-year-old Grant Thompson, who discovered the flaw and reported it. An executive flew to Tucson to meet the teen and ask for feedback on the bug reporting system they used.

Thompson is now eligible for Apple's Bug Bounty program, which pays those who identify critical security flaws. The bug bounty program pays out up to $200,000 for reported vulnerabilities. The amount paid out depends on the severity of the vulnerability that was discovered.

How The Bug Was Discovered

Grant Thompson says he discovered the bug by accident on January 19th while attempting to contact friends. He started by calling one friend via FaceTime. When the friend didn't answer immediately, Thompson swiped up to add a second friend to the call.

After the second friend picked up, Thompson realized he and that friend could hear everything going on from the friend who hadn't answered the call.

What Should I Do?

If you have an iOS device on 12.1.3 or lower, you should check your settings for an update. Apple is rolling out the update to all iOS users as quickly as possible. The issue has been fixed on Apple's servers, but if you're still worried, you can disable FaceTime completely.

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