Apple warned repeatedly about FaceTime bug by mother of teen credited with finding flaw

January 29, 2019 GMT

Apple was repeatedly alerted about an eavesdropping bug involving its FaceTime video-chat feature more than a week before it became public Monday.

Social media posts show Apple was contacted several times starting January 20 about the same FaceTime flaw the company scrambled to fix eight days later.

“My teen found a major security flaw in Apple’s new iOS. He can listen in to your iPhone/iPad without your approval. I have video,” Twitter user @MGT7500 wrote to Apple on Jan. 20.

“This is real...trying to get Apple’s attention to get this addressed,” the user wrote in a subsequent tweet directed to Tim Cook, the company’s chief executive officer. “I’m just a mom of a teenager who found a huge problem in your new update. I’ve verified it myself...someone from Apple should respond to us.”


Michele Thompson, a lawyer from Tucson, Arizona, said she sent the tweets to Apple after her 14-year-old son, Grant, discovered the bug while trying to chat with his friends on FaceTime, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. She has since shared images of emails she allegedly exchanged with Apple’s security team, as well as a video clip that her and her son filmed and sent to Apple last week showing how the bug could be easily exploited to eavesdrop on FaceTime users.

“Short of smoke signals, I was trying every method that someone could use to get a hold of someone at Apple,” Ms. Thompson, 43, told the newspaper.

Ms. Thompson said she tried contacting Apple on Twitter and Facebook, as well as by phone and fax, prior to eventually reaching a company support representative last Wednesday. That conversation culminated in her sending Apple a detailed description last Friday of the issue along with a link to a private YouTube video demonstrating how to exploit the bug, but the vulnerability remained unpatched prior it becoming publicly reported Monday afternoon.

Apple disabled FaceTime’s group messaging feature Monday evening as reports spread about the bug and its ability to make iPhone and iPad users susceptible to eavesdropping. The company said it expects to fix the bug later this week.

Representatives for Apple did not immediately return a message regarding Ms. Thompson’s claims.