Apple software glitch allowed FaceTime callers to eavesdrop

February 1, 2019

BULLHEAD CITY — After receiving scores of reports of a bug affecting the use of Apple’s FaceTime application that allowed callers to remotely activate another user’s microphone, the company disabled a group-chat function.

With the bug, a FaceTime user calling another iPhone, iPad or Mac computer could hear audio — even if the receiver did not accept the call. The bug was triggered when callers added themselves to the same call to launch a group chat. That makes FaceTime think the receiver had accepted the chat.

Apple insisted late Tuesday that there was no longer a danger from this particular bug after disabling group chats. Regular, one-on-one FaceTime conversations remain available.

According to the Associated Press, NBC News and The Wall Street Journal reported that the family of a 14-year-old high school student in Tucson tried to inform Apple about the bug more than a week before it became widely known to the public. The boy, Grant Thompson, said he discovered it by accident while calling friends to play the game “Fortnite.”

Apple said Tuesday that a fix will come in a software update later this week. Apple introduced the 32-person video conferencing feature in October for iPhones, iPads and Macs.

Attempts to contact Apple for additional information and comment Tuesday and Wednesday were unsuccessful.

The bug comes with bad timing as Apple released its report for first-quarter financial results on Tuesday.

Apple stated that the company posted quarterly revenue of $84.3 billion, a decline of 5 percent from the year-ago quarter. Apple said that revenue from iPhone sales declined 15 percent from the prior year while total revenue from all other products and services grew 19 percent.

In a prepared statement, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said, “While it was disappointing to miss our revenue guidance, we manage Apple for the long term, and this quarter’s results demonstrate that the underlying strength of our business runs deep and wide.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.