There’s a serious bug in Apple’s FaceTime video calling platform that has been bouncing around some corners of social media today, and that 9to5Mac just alerted us to: you can call somebody via FaceTime and listen to their phone’s microphone regardless of whether the person you’re calling picks up.
Reached for comment, an Apple spokesperson said “We’re aware of this issue and we have identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week.”
The Verge has just independently confirmed that it works using two iPhones running 12.1.2 in our office. Here’s how it goes: you begin calling somebody via FaceTime Video from within the Phone app. Before that person picks up, you can swipe up to add your own phone number to the call. Once you’ve added yourself, FaceTime immediately seems to assume it’s an active conference call and begins sending the audio of the person you’re calling, even though they haven’t yet picked up.
In other words, if you see your iPhone ringing with a FaceTime video call, it’s possible that the person calling you could listen to your microphone before you’ve picked up. The bug requires you have an OS that supports Group FaceTime to work, of course.
What’s more, if one of these “fake” conference calls is happening, if the recipient hits the power or volume button to ignore the call, it not only broadcasts audio to your phone but video as well.
This seems like a very serious bug — one that has to be fixed quickly one way or another. MacRumors was also able to replicate the bug using a Mac. As Benjamin Mayo notes, that’s potentially even scarier as “FaceTime on Mac rings for much longer.”
For now, probably the best defense is to turn off FaceTime by going into settings and toggling the switch for it there. On the Mac, you disable FaceTime by opening the app, then Preferences, then uncheck “Enable this account.”
Otherwise, just be aware that if your phone starts ringing a FaceTime call, be aware that if the caller is malicious they could be listening to you.