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Apple FaceTime bug lets people eavesdrop on your iPhone or Mac without your knowledge

San Francisco (CNN Business)A newly discovered bug in Apple’s FaceTime software lets Apple users listen in on the people they are calling, and even see through their front-facing camera, without them picking-up the call.The bug, flagged by 9to5Mac on Monday, was quickly recreated by people across social media. CNN Business confirmed the bug multiple times in its own tests.Apple said in a statement Monday night that it has identified a fix for the problem and will release it in a software update later this week.

In the meantime, Apple’s website indicates Group FaceTime is unavailable, and the company confirmed it has started disabling the Group FaceTime feature for all users.The bug works on iPhones and iPads running iOS 12.1, and Apple PCs running macOS Mojave, which have the recently added Group FaceTime feature.It is activated when you call someone via FaceTime, swipe up to add another person to the call, and add your own phone number. The person who initiated the call is then able to hear the live audio on the other person’s phone, even though the recipient has not accepted the call. And their screen gives no indication that their conversation is being transmitted.

In some cases, the bug can also show live video of the other person if they press a volume button to dismiss the call.CNN senior editor Brian Ries successfully used it on friends, family members and a colleague, and in one instance was even able to see video of the people he was calling.To avoid falling victim to the bug, disable FaceTime on all your devices until Apple’s software updates have been released.On an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings -> FaceTime, and toggle off the green button at the top of the screen. To turn it off on a Mac, open the FaceTime app and go to FaceTime on top of the screen, then select “Turn FaceTime Off.”

If you have an iPhone or a Mac you may want to turn off FaceTime: A new bug can let the people that call you to listen in to your conversations even if you don’t answer the call. 

The bug, which was widely circulated on the internet Monday night after being spotted by 9to5Mac, is easily accessible. Those looking to exploit the bug simply need to start a FaceTime call, swipe up to add a person and enter your own phone number. This will create a group FaceTime call and automatically answer the call for the first person. Both the caller and the original recipient will be able to hear one another, or if the caller is quiet, allow them to eavesdrop if the recipient did not hear the original call. 

Pressing the volume or power button on the recipient’s iPhone, which is usually used to silence or dismiss an incoming call, will also turn on the camera with this glitch allowing the caller to activate your camera — though doing this will disable the audio. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook, top , speaks using his Memoji during a group FaceTime call on stage during Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, Calif. on June 4, 2018.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, top , speaks using his Memoji during a group FaceTime call on stage during Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, Calif. on June 4, 2018. (Photo: Josh Edelson, AFP/Getty Images)

USA TODAY was able to recreate the bug on multiple iPhones running versions of iOS 12.1 on devices ranging from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone XR. We were also able to recreate it on a MacBook Pro, allowing the iPhone to listen in to the Mac running the latest version of Mac OS Mojave.

We were not able to test the bug on an iPad running iOS 12.1 but those who have Apple’s tablets may want to exercise caution until a fix arrives. 

In a statement provided to USA TODAY and other media outlets, Apple says that it is “aware of this issue and we have identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week.” 

Twitter quickly filled with users sharing their concerns and with videos replicating the bug. 

The bug seems to exploit Group FaceTime,  a feature Apple added in iOS 12 last year to allow for multiple people to FaceTime together. When tried on an iPhone running iOS 11.3, which doesn’t have Group FaceTime support, the bug did not work. 

Late Monday night the Apple System Status page showed that Group FaceTime was unavailable. In our own test, USA TODAY confirmed that the company has appeared to have turned off the Group FaceTime feature. Now when someone attempts to turn a regular FaceTime call into a group call the original FaceTime call disconnects entirely. 

Regular one-on-one FaceTime calls are still working, though they did not appear to be exploitable by this bug. 

Users can turn off FaceTime on their iOS 12 iPhones and iPads in the interim by going to Settings, scrolling to FaceTime and clicking it to the “off” position. Those on a Mac running Mojave can disable FaceTime by opening the FaceTime app, clicking “FaceTime” in the upper left corner and then clicking “Turn FaceTime off” from that drop down window. 

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