Apple has disabled the Walkie Talkie app for the Apple Watch over the realisation that that users could listen in on other iPhone owner’s phones without their consent.
The app, which was introduced with watchOS 5 last year, allows Watch owners to use the smartwatch like a walkie talkie to communicate from smartwatch to smartwatch.
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Apple was made aware of the vulnerability through its vulnerability portal and says there is no evidence that it has been exploited yet. The decision to disable the app means it can now work on a fix so users can go back to their walkie talkie time safe in the knowledge no one is listening in on their calls.
Apple released the following statement in response to the Walkie Talkie app issue:
“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 customerâs iPhone without consent.We apologize again for this issue and the inconvenience.“
This actually isn’t the first time that Apple has uncovered an eavesdropping problem with its hardware. Earlier this year a bug was discovered with its FaceTime video calling software that allowed users to listen into a recipient’s call before they accepted the call.
While there’s probably not as many people using the Walkie Talkie app as there are using FaceTime, it’s surprising to see Apple miss something after its previous eavesdropping issue. Hopefully the wait won’t be too long before the app back on.