iOS 12.1.4 update: Apple finally releases iPhone software to fix FaceTime snooping bug

Andrew Griffin

Apple has finally released a software update that fixes maybe its creepiest issue ever: a FaceTime bug that allowed people to snoop on others through their phone.

Downloading the new version of iOS – named iOS 12.1.4 – should fix the problem and make group chats secure again. The new version includes a message that it "provides important security updates and is recommended for all users", and doesn't make any mention of new features or any other changes.

Apple has also turned back on the servers that power the group FaceTime feature, which were unplugged as it attempted to stop people exploiting the bug. For now, phones and other devices such as Macs that have not been updated will not be able to use the feature until they download the new software.

The issue appears on all devices that support group FaceTime – which includes iPads as well as Macs – and each of them has their own software update.

The issue had been discovered by a 14-year-old boy from Arizona, whose mother Michele Thompson then reported it to Apple.

At the time, Apple thanked the Thompson family for reporting the issue and said its engineering team had immediately begun working on resolving the issue.

"Today's software update fixes the security bug in Group FaceTime. We again apologise to our customers and we thank them for their patience," Apple said in a statement confirming the update.

"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.

"This includes a previously unidentified vulnerability in the Live Photos feature of FaceTime. To protect customers who have not yet upgraded to the latest software, we have updated our servers to block the Live Photos feature of FaceTime for older versions of iOS and macOS."

The company also confirmed it would compensate the Thompson family for reporting the bug, and said it would make an additional gift towards the education of Grant Thompson, the teenager who discovered it.

Users wanting to update their iOS software can do so by going to the Settings app on their Apple device, selecting the General and then Software Update option.

Additional reporting by agencies