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FaceTime Eavesdropping Bug Dents Apple’s Reputation As The Protector Of User Privacy

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Apple iPhone 6

FaceTime is one of the many pride and joys of iPhone users and along with applications such as iMessage, this has been touted as one of the many reasons why you should own an Apple device over Android. Unfortunately, a recently discovered bug makes using the voice and video calling platform a privacy nightmare…

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The weird bug allows iPhone users calling their contacts via FaceTime to hear the audio on the other end before the recipient has answered the call. This means if you leave your phone ringing and make some remark about why you don’t want to speak to that person there’s a good chance that the individual on the other end will hear what you really think of them. The bug can be replicated by making a call to a Mac as well which means it is not just the phones which are compromised but the computer hardware. It’s said to be affecting all users on iOS 12.1 and above.

Here’s a video of the bug in action:

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Apple has said the issue will be resolved in an update being pushed later this week but for a company that seems to prioritise security over Google and it’s own Android software this does seem like a pretty significant blow. Until Apple fixes the bug, it’s not exactly clear how to protect yourself against this attack either. Oh, you can disable FaceTime altogether.

To make matters worse, a Twitter user has discovered how to activate the eavesdropping bug on videos as well which means goodbye privacy for millions of subscribers:

I just replicated the issue – on top of that, if you “join” the call using your invitation on another device (in this case another iPhone) you also get video!! Even though the call is still ringing / not answered on the destination device.

Isn’t Apple all about security?

Apple has always pitted itself against Facebook and Google by playing the security card. Their claims thus far have been that they don’t sell anyone’s data to advertisers and everything that happens on an iPhone stays on an iPhone. Now here’s a bug that’s contrary to all that talk and Apple’s competitors will not forget about this scandal any time soon. It’s something you can expect them to poke fun at in their marketing campaigns and with Samsung’s Galaxy S10 around the corner, I expect them to mention this incident in some funny ads. Samsung does love to poke fun at Apple in their marketing campaigns and this will probably lead to some funny ads.

What’s with the increasing number of gates?

If you speak to people who own iPhones their usually there for the “quality” of devices but of late there seems to have been an increase in the number of scandals that the Cupertino company are facing it does seem that quality control has been on the wane.

Bendgate

Last year there was the Bendgate that occurred with the latest batch of iPads. The devices were showing slight bends if they were put under slight physical pressure which could occur if you were keeping your iPad in a bag with some books. Now the fact that Apple said there was no problem with this was actually more infuriating than the problem itself but they probably did it to avoid returns and trade-ins which would result in Apple losing more money. So what did Apple do? They said the bending was normal and the iPads meet Apples standards;

Relative to the issue you referenced regarding the new iPad Pro, its unibody design meets or exceeds all of Apple’s high quality standards of design and precision manufacturing. We’ve carefully engineered it and every part of the manufacturing process is precisely measured and controlled.

Our current specification for iPad Pro flatness is up to 400 microns which is even tighter than previous generations. This 400 micron variance is less than half a millimeter (or the width of fewer than four sheets of paper at most) and this level of flatness won’t change during normal use over the lifetime of the product. Note, these slight variations do not affect the function of the device in any way.

Again, thanks for reaching out and I hope the above explanation addresses your concerns.

To make matters worse this was actually the second bendgate after the iPhone 6 Plus had a much worse scandal back in 2014. This was much worse because the phones were bending in consumers pockets, which means it was something pretty hard to avoid if your phone was defective.

Antennagate

Back in 2010 Apple also faced some serious criticisms when consumers buying iPhone 4s’ faced dropped calls due to antenna issues and the issue was serious to the point where consumer reports stopped recommending people to buy the iPhone 4s.

Chipgate

After bendgate, Apple had another issue in the iPhone 6s series that had to do with their chosen SOC suppliers. Some chips were made by Samsung and others were made by their usual supplier TSMC. The Samsung chips would overheat and subsequently battery life was poorer on these devices and thus another gate began.

Is the quality control really up to standard?

One thing that could explain why “Gates” are more common with Apple devices is simply the fact that they manufacture a gazzilion more devices than their competitor and quality control is affected at times. For example, iPhone sold 77 million iPhone 6s’ and this means that if 1% of devices were affected during manufacture this would affect 770 000 units which are more than enough to start a gate.

Samsung went through one of its own scandals when Galaxy Notes started exploding randomly. Both Samsung and Apple have made it past their scandals and this FaceTime bug is another one of those blips on the radar that I don’t think will affect Apple in the long run. Manufacturing processes are quite intense and the fine margins involved in this process make it much harder for companies working on scales as large as Samsung and Apple to avoid defects. It does seem like these manufacturing defects are more common on Apple devices than they are with their competitors

In the meantime, however, Android fans and manufacturers will have a field day and we will remind Apple why their devices are insecure and can be used to spy on them…


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