Apple has managed to handicap the group calling feature within its FaceTime calling service while it works on a patch to fix a nasty bug that allows eavesdropping.
Its status page shows that group calling through Face Time is unavailable for the mean time as a temporary way of dealing with the problem, while the company prepares to deliver a more permanent fix to the problem this week.
This fix shows that users don’t need to completely disable FaceTime due to the bug, but it is understandable if some people are tentative to switch it on again. The vulnerability was unearthed on Monday and it is activated when a user creates a group call but adds themselves as a participant.
The ruffle relies on what appears to be a horrible logic that has been completely mismanaged in Face Time’s group call system. The bug seems to trick the recipient’s phone into thinking a group call is already ongoing. A few quick taps, and FaceTime immediately trips over itself and inexplicably fires up the recipient’s microphone without them actually accepting the call.
If the recipient presses the volume down button or the power button to try to silence or dismiss the call, their camera turns on as well. Though the recipient’s phone display continues showing the incoming call screen, their microphone/camera are streaming
It’s interesting to note that the group calling feature actually took longer than planned to arrive in iOS follow a hiccup. It was added then removed from the beta version of iOS 12 in August while it took time to roll out to all users. The feature was absent when iOS 12 shipped to all in September and, instead, it arrived with the launch of iOS 12.1 in October.
The bug is regarded as a shameful experience for Apple, which has long spotlighted its focus on privacy as a business and within its products.