Unlike Macs, iPhone and iPad notably lack an indicator light that shows when the camera is in use.
On Monday evening, Apple took its Group FaceTime feature offline as a temporary mitigation for the problem. Meanwhile, the company promised to eliminate the spying bugs via a software update that will be released "later this week. New York governor Andrew Cuomo issued a "consumer alert" about the issue, saying he was "deeply concerned by this irresponsible bug that can be exploited for unscrupulous purposes," and he urged Apple "to release the fix without delay.
Major Apple Security Bug Lets You Spy on Your Buddies
Although some media reports, as well as Governor Cuomo's alert, have called on users to disable FaceTime until a fix is made available, this should no longer be necessary now that Apple has taken the Group FaceTime service offline server-side until a software update can be made available for affected devices.
We'll discuss the FaceTime flaw on this week's edition of the Intego Mac Podcast , so be sure to subscribe to make sure you don't miss any episodes.
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The FaceTime flaw, and other Apple bugs, can fetch tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, from dozens of brokers. Those brokers then sell those bugs for ever higher sums to governments and intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world.
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On the seedier side of the spectrum are brokers who will sell these tools on the dark web to the highest bidder. The only catch is that hackers must promise never to disclose the flaw to the vendor for patching, so that buyers can keep their access.
The market for Apple flaws has soared in the post-Edward Snowden era as technology makers include more security, like end-to-end encryption, to thwart would-be spies. In part to compete in that market, and reward those who do right by the company by notifying it of potentially lucrative bugs, Apple announced its own bounty program in — the last of the Silicon Valley companies to do so.
But the bounty program has been slow going, in part, hackers say, because they can make multiples of that bounty on the black market, and because Apple has taken its time rewarding them for reporting problems.
The FacePalm bug is a particularly egregious case, researchers say, not just because it was discovered by a teenager simply trying to use his phone, but because it allowed full microphone and video access. Wardle said.