Grant Thompson was enjoying his day off from school playing video games with his pals when he made an earth-shattering technological discovery that has thrown Apple under the bus.
It turned out that Thompson detected a bug in Apple’s FaceTime tool that essentially allowed iPhone users to hear other people’s phone conversations and even access their cameras in some instances. Thompson FaceTimed a friend who didn’t answer, so he swiped up on his iPhone to add others into the Group FaceTime chat.
Suddenly, Thompson could hear everything else that was coming through his friend’s iPhone even though that friend hadn’t answered.
“We tested a few more times and found out we could get people to force answer FaceTime calls. After we confirmed that it worked, I went and told my mom,” Thompson said.
Apple eventually disabled its Group FaceTime feature after others reported the bug and posted videos of how it worked all over social media that went viral, reported CNN. Apple has a “bug bounty” program, CNN reported, that will offer financial incentives for tech-savvy people like the teen who report issues. It pays upwards of $200,000.
14-year old Grant Thompson was just trying to play video games with friends when he made an alarming discovery: A bug in Apple's FaceTime tool that could turn iPhones into eavesdropping devices https://t.co/gY4nzZ4tlC pic.twitter.com/27YLqE0x0x
— CNN (@CNN) January 29, 2019
Grant Thompson said he hoped he would be rewarded with a MacBook Pro, an iPhone X, and AirPods. Even though they did not report the bug for the reward, Michele Thompson hopes that Apple still will recognize her son for what he had done.
Apple informed CNN Business that it had “identified a fix for the issue and plans to roll out a software update later this week.” However, Thompson’s mom Michele said there was no need for the nine-day lapse from when her son discovered the bug and she reported it to Apple, to when Apple publicly acknowledged it.
CNN said she “emailed, called, tweeted at CEO Tim Cook and even faxed a letter on her law firm’s letterhead.” The Arizona attorney was so incredibly persistent because she worried the issue would allow pertinent information to fall “into the wrong hands.”
Michele Thompson took to social media to spread the word about the problem, too, in the hopes that others would contact Apple as well.
“My teen found a major security flaw in Apple’s new iOS. He can listen in to your iPhone/iPad without your approval. I have video. Submitted bug report to @AppleSupport…waiting to hear back to provide details. Scary stuff!” she tweeted.
Thompson also emailed a bug report and video to Apple’s product security department, but never heard back from anyone until the situation exploded all over social media, she told CNN.
“It’s exhausting and exasperating. (The reporting process) It’s very poorly set up especially for the average citizen. I feel like I went above and beyond,” she said.