Apple has announced that it has disabled the Walkie-Talkie app on the Apple Watch for all users due to a bug that could let Apple Watch users listen in on each other without the other person’s knowledge. In a statement to TechCrunch, Apple said:
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 reportedly alerted to the bug via its vulnerability portal and says that there’s no evidence the flaw has been used in the wild. The Walkie-Talkie app debuted on the Apple Watch with watchOS 5 last fall and allows users who have accepted invites from each other to simply push a button on their Watch to talk to each other instantly, just as you could do with old-school walkie-talkies.
The flaw in the Walkie-Talkie app is reminiscent of the major Group FaceTime bug afflicting iOS users earlier this year. That bug allowed callers to eavesdrop on the person they were placing a group FaceTime call to.