Apple Watch’s Walkie-Talkie app disabled over eavesdropping concerns


Walkie-Talkie vulnerability allowed users to listen in on each other .
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple has disabled the Walkie-Talkie app for Apple Watch after discovering a vulnerability. This allowed users to drop in on another person’s iPhone without their knowledge.

The app will stay installed on devices, although it won’t work until Apple has issued a fix.

In a statement to TechCrunch, Apple apologized for the bug.

“We were just made aware of a vulnerability related to the Walkie-Talkie app on the Apple Watch and have disabled the function as we quickly fix the issue. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and will restore the functionality as soon as possible. Although we are not aware of any use of the vulnerability against a customer and specific conditions and sequences of events are required to exploit it, we take the security and privacy of our customers extremely seriously. We concluded that disabling the app was the right course of action as this bug could allow someone to listen through another customer’s iPhone without consent. We apologize again for this issue and the inconvenience.”

Apple was told about the bug via a user report. However, there is no evidence that it was maliciously used by anyone.

Hopefully Apple can sort it soon

Apple introduced the Walkie-Talkie app last year as part of the watchOS 5 update. The app allows users to chat back-and-forth with other Apple Watch owners. Unlike an actual walkie-talkie, the app functions (or functioned) regardless of the distance between you and your friend.

The Walkie-Talkie app vulnerability is reminiscent of a previous one involving group FaceTime. That bug made it possible for a FaceTime caller to listen in and see the person on the other end of the call, before they picked up.

Hopefully Apple is able to sort out the Walkie-Talkie bug before long. Not least because it’s one of the best ways to communicate using Apple Watch.



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