Apple has now rolled out iOS 12.1.4 for its iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The update includes a long-awaited and important fix for a serious bug in Apple Group FaceTime software.
According to the company notes, the flaw was actually discovered on January 19 this year by 14-year-old Grant Thompson of Catalina Foothills High School from Arizona.
Thompson, along with his mother (Michele), tried to report about that bug to Apple team; but they struggled to get the company's attention until the problem gained traction on social media.
The flaw allowed people to eavesdrop on another user's microphone or camera by initiating a fake Group FaceTime call.
Thompson told Reuters TV he was trying to chat with his friend while playing a video game when he discovered the bug.
Thompson called his friend Nathan using FaceTime, but Nathan didn't pick up on January 19. Thompson then swiped up and added another friend, a move that instantly connected him with Nathan, whose phone was still ringing.
The youngster had discovered a bug that allowed him to force other iPhones to answer a FaceTime call, even if the other person doesn't take any action.
The family said that it took Thompson and his mother Michele, who is a lawyer, nine days of phone calls, emails, online postings before getting a response from Apple. They tried repeatedly to contact Apple about the privacy glitch from the time her son discovered it. Michele also tweeted CEO Tim Cook and even faxed a letter on her law firm's letterhead.
Thompson said she tried everything she could think of to get Apple's attention.
When the Apple team recognized the problem, they disabled the Group FaceTime feature as it worked to resolve the bug. The team would fix the eavesdropping bug and disable Group FaceTime as its engineers worked to fix the issue.
The company said it found a fix last week and also announced it would improve how it handles reports of software bugs after Thompson and his mother tried for days to warn Apple of the bug.
Apple thanked the Thompson family for reporting the problem. The company also announced that it's compensating 14-year-old Grant Thompson who discovered the Group FaceTime bug as well as his family and will fund the kid's education.
Apple spokesperson said in a statement,
We sincerely apologize to our customers who were affected and all who were concerned about this security issue. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we complete this process. We want to assure our customers that as soon as our engineering team became aware of the details necessary to reproduce the bug, they quickly disabled Group FaceTime and began work on the fix. We are committed to improving the process by which we receive and escalate these reports, in order to get them to the right people as fast as possible. We take the security of our products extremely seriously and we are committed to continuing to earn the trust Apple customers place in us.
To get the update, go into Settings > General. Tap on the "Software Update". Then press "Download and Install" for iOS 12.1.4. Also, it is recommended to use a Wi-Fi connection for download the updates, backup your data, and ensure that your device has over 50 percent of charge or connected to a power source before beginning the update process.
Stock photo from Ame Kusanagy