Apple fixes FaceTime privacy issue; rewards teen who discovered eavesdropping bug

2536
FaceTime video calling on iPhone. (Photo: Screengrab from YouTube)

Apple Inc. has rolled out software updates to fix a privacy issue in its FaceTime video calling service in iPhones. Also, it would reward by contributing to the education of the American teenager who discovered the bug on the video app.

Grant Thompson, a 14-year-old high school student from Tucson, Arizona, discovered the FaceTime security bug when he was calling a friend to play the video game “Fortnite.” When his friend did not pick up the FaceTime call, he added a second friend to the group call, which caused the original call to “pick up” even though his friend did not answer.

 

Grant Thompson and his mom, Michele. (Photo: Screengrab from YouTube)

The software bug let users hear audio from people who had not yet answered a video call. Grant said he re-created the hack several times with his friends and his mom to confirm the existence of the bug. This led to his mother, Michele, to call up and email Apple to alert them about the bug early in January.

According to the tech giant, the Thompson family would be compensated and an additional gift for Grant’s education would be given. Apple did not divulge how much it would give.

With the latest iPhone software update, Apple also formally credited Thompson and Daven Morris from Arlington, Texas in the release notes.

“We again apologize to our customers and we thank them for their patience. In addition to addressing the bug that was reported, our team conducted a thorough security audit of the FaceTime service and made additional updates to both the FaceTime app and server to improve security,” Apple said in a statement.

On Tuesday, two key US House of Representatives Democrats asked Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook to answer questions about the bug, saying they were “deeply troubled” over how long it took Apple to address the security flaw.

The company said last week it was planning to improve how it handles reports of software bugs.

New York  Attorney General Letitia James is also investigating Apple’s response to the FaceTime bug, in reference to the warning reported by the Thompson family more than a week before it was shared widely with the media and the company took action.

“This FaceTime breach is a serious threat to the security and privacy of the millions of New Yorkers who have put their trust in Apple and its products over the years,” she said.

James stressed that her office would examine “Apple’s failure to warn consumers about the FaceTime bug and slow response to addressing the issue.”

During a TV interview, Grant said he was surprised to find the flaw before Apple did. He also said he would remain to be an iPhone user despite the bug.

“In general, I think that Apple tries to keep our privacy safe, and I respect that,” Grant said.