Apple loves to talk about how secure it is. And then this happened

Who’s listening?
Who’s listening?
Image: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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Apple, a very successful electronics company, will tell you, ad nauseam, about how secure its products are. CEO Tim Cook seems to have made it his mission to champion personal digital privacy in an age when most other major technology companies benefit from having as much data on you as possible. He has publicly called out the industry as a whole and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in particular. He even wrote an op-ed in Time on the subject earlier this month.

But yesterday (Jan. 28), reports emerged that a bug within Apple’s FaceTime program allowed anyone with an iPhone running iOS 12.1 or newer to eavesdrop on anyone else, before they even answered a call. It was even possible to see the camera feed of the person you were calling.

Apple’s engineers have been alerted to flaw. Testing FaceTime today, it doesn’t seem possible to exploit the flaw anymore, and on Apple’s system status page, FaceTime is currently listed as having an “issue.”

“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 told Quartz. If you remain concerned, you can manually turn off FaceTime by going to the Settings app on your iPhone, scrolling down to FaceTime, and turning the toggle to off.

The company hasn’t said what caused the flaw, although it seems likely that it’s linked to the Group FaceTime feature. Apple announced at its annual developer conference in June that it would be releasing the ability to FaceTime with up to 32 people with iOS 12 in September. Later in the summer, Apple pulled the feature from its beta software, saying only it would debut later than iOS 12. It finally debuted on Oct. 30.

Apple caused a bit of a stir at this year’s CES electronics trade show in Las Vegas when it put up a massive ad near the convention center that (problematically) touted how secure its devices are. Oh well.

Apple will be hosting its first-quarter earnings call later today, so it’s possible we may hear more about the bug on the call.