Apple FaceTime Bug Lets Callers Eavesdrop on You Before You Accept Their Call

iStock.com/PeopleImages
iStock.com/PeopleImages

If you recently called someone using Apple's new Group FaceTime feature, you may have noticed a concerning privacy issue—and if you were the recipient of a Group FaceTime call, you may have fallen victim to the bug without realizing it. As CNN Business reports, the bug allows Apple users to eavesdrop on people they're calling via FaceTime, and in some cases, spy on them by video even if they don't accept the call.

The security flaw appeared shortly after Apple rolled out Group FaceTime in December, and it's since been linked to iPhones and iPads on iOS 12.1 and Apple PCs on macOS Mojave with the feature.

If the bug is activated on your device, FaceTime will automatically transmit audio from the other person's phone when you call them, rather than starting from the moment they answer the call, as the app normally does. If the recipient declines the call by pressing a volume button or the power button, there's a chance FaceTime will send live video of them instead of hanging up. And the recipient has no indication that this is happening.

The bug can be triggered easily by adding your own phone number to a Group FaceTime call between you and another person. With that information, anyone can take advantage of the vulnerability to snoop on other iOS users. According to Apple's status page, Group FaceTime is "temporarily unavailable" while the company gets the privacy issue is sorted out, but if you've already downloaded Group FaceTime, the bug may carry over to two-person FaceTime Calls.

If you want to be sure no one is using your iPhone to eavesdrop on you, the safest move is to disable FaceTime until Apple announces a foolproof fix. To do that, open Settings on your iPhone or iPad, select FaceTime, and toggle off the green switch next to the app name. For Mac computers, open the FaceTime app, drop-down FaceTime from the menu bar, and click Turn FaceTime Off to disable the feature.

[h/t CNN Business]

Missing the Days of Clippy? There’s an App That Will Bring Him Back

The Science Elf, YouTube
The Science Elf, YouTube

Some Microsoft Office users might still brace for the appearance of a certain nosy, wide-eyed paper clip whenever they type Dear at the top of a fresh Word document. After all, Clippy was the anthropomorphic pet we never asked for, yet tolerated through several formative years of computer technology.

Though Clippy—short for Clippit—may have been on the receiving end of an industry-wide eye roll in the late 1990s, it’s hard to ignore how much he seems like an early, distant ancestor to applications like Alexa and Siri, upon whom society has developed a pretty significant reliance. Whether you think about the injustice against Clippy every day or you’re just a normal person who likes any excuse to indulge in ‘90s nostalgia, we have news for you: You can rescue him from the void and host him on your very own Mac desktop.

According to Lifehacker, the app was created by a developer named Devran “Cosmo” Uenal, who debuted the program on Github earlier this month. This rather chilled-out Clippy won’t burst into your Word document and offer unsolicited advice on how to write letters, but he’ll still entertain you with animated performances if you right-click on him and choose “Animate!”

As you can see in Uenal’s Twitter video, he might don a pair of oversized headphones and mime a music jam sessions, or he might transform into a googly-eyed, heavy-eyebrowed checkmark.

To download the paperclip pal for yourself, scroll down to the “First start” section on the Github page and click “Download Clippy for macOS,” which should trigger an automatic download. Click on that installation file, and then follow the rest of the directions in the “First start” section to open Clippy on your desktop. From there, the fun is endless.

And, if you’re hungry for more history about the world’s most hated virtual assistant, you can read more about his tragic life here.

[h/t Lifehacker]

Wish You Could ‘Shazam’ a Piece of Art? With Magnus, You Can

Manuel-F-O/iStock via Getty Images
Manuel-F-O/iStock via Getty Images

While museum artworks are often accompanied by tidy little placards that tell you the basics—title, artist, year, medium, dimensions, etc.—that’s not always the standard for art galleries and fairs. For people who don’t love tracking down a staff member every time they’d like to know more about a particular work, there’s Magnus, a Shazam-like app that lets you snap a photo of an artwork and will then tell you the title, artist, last price, and more.

The New York Times reports that Magnus has a primarily crowdsourced database of more than 10 million art images. Though the idea of creating Shazam for art seems fairly straightforward, the execution has been relatively complex, partially because of the sheer quantity of art in the world. As founder Magnus Resch explained to The New York Times, “There is a lot more art in the world than there are songs.”

Structural diversity in art adds another challenge to the process: it’s difficult for image recognition technology to register 3D objects like sculptures, however famous they may be. Resch also has to dodge copyright violations; he maintains that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act applies to his app, since the photos are taken and shared by users, but he still has had to remove some content. All things considered, Magnus’s approximate match rate of 70 percent is pretty impressive.

Since the process of buying and selling art often includes negotiation and prices can fluctuate drastically, Magnus gives potential purchasers the background information they need to at least decide whether they’re interested in pursuing a particular piece. Just like browsing around a boutique where prices aren’t included on the items, a lack of transparency can be a deterrent for new customers.

Such was the case for Jelena Cohen, a Colgate-Palmolive brand manager who bought her first photograph with the help of Magnus. “I used to go to these art fairs, and I felt embarrassed or shy, because nothing’s listed,” she told The New York Times. “I loved that the app could scan a piece and give you the exact history of it, when it was last sold, and the price it was sold for. That helped me negotiate.” Through Magnus, you can also keep track of artworks you’ve scanned in your digital collection, search for artworks by artist, and share images to social media.

One thing Magnus can’t do, however, is tell you whether an artwork is authentic or not. The truth is that sometimes even art experts have trouble doing that, as evidenced by the long history of notorious art forgeries.

[h/t The New York Times]

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