Apple officially acknowledged and apologized for a Facetime bug that could allow bad actors to spy on you with just a few simple steps. While it promised a fix this week, that fix is delayed till next week.
Group Facetime is a great way to talk to your family and friends all at once, but unfortunately, as we found out earlier this week, it was also an easy way to spy on people. All you had to do was start a Facetime call, then swipe up from the bottom of the screen, tap “Add Person,” and add your own phone number. Despite your target not answering, the group Facetime connects for you immediately, while their end will still be ringing.
Apple issued the following statement to MacRumors:
We have fixed the Group FaceTime security bug on Apple’s servers and we will issue a software update to re-enable the feature for users next week. We thank the Thompson family for reporting the bug. We sincerely apologize to our customers who were affected and all who were concerned about this security issue. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we complete this process.
We want to assure our customers that as soon as our engineering team became aware of the details necessary to reproduce the bug, they quickly disabled Group FaceTime and began work on the fix. We are committed to improving the process by which we receive and escalate these reports, in order to get them to the right people as fast as possible. We take the security of our products extremely seriously and we are committed to continuing to earn the trust Apple customers place in us.
While it is good to see Apple take precautionary steps like disabling Group Facetime on its servers, one would hope a fix for such a severe issue could be released much sooner. For now, all you can do is wait until the update hits your devices and for extra safety, disable Facetime.
Update: As also pointed out on MacRumors, Group FaceTime will not return on iOS 12.1.3 or below. It will require a client update.
On an iPhone or iPad, head to Settings > FaceTime and toggle FaceTime off. You’ll have to repeat this process on all your devices—for example, if you have both an iPhone and iPad.
To disable FaceTime on a Mac, open the FaceTime app and select FaceTime > Turn FaceTime Off. You’ll have to repeat this step on all your Macs, too.