Cybercriminals can use iPhone apps to secretly turn on your front or back camera at any time, a security expert has warned.
Google engineer Felix Krause was able to build an app that silently takes a picture of its user every second and then uploads them to the internet.
He said the issues is a ‘privacy loophole that can be abused by iOS apps’.
The only safe way to protect yourself from the hack is using camera covers, which can be bought online, through a simple sticky note will suffice.
You can also revoke camera access for all apps and always use the built-in camera app to avoid being caught out.
Recently a Florida TV station ran a news story suggesting that Facebook uses your phone’s microphone to listen to your conversations and serves up ads based on what you talk about. After the story blew up on (of course) social media, Facebook published a statement saying that it doesn’t listen to your conversations for the purpose of selling ads. But, Facebook says, it does use your microphone “if you have given our app permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio,” such as the feature that allows you to include music you’re listening to in a status update.
When an app wants to access your camera, for instance, to take a profile photo during set-up, it must first ask for permission.
Once granted, this permission can only be revoked via the settings menu.
Mr Krausse, based in Vienna, Austria, said that once an app is opened, it can take photos and video of the user via either camera at any time.
The iPhone gives no indication that the camera is being used or that the photos are being uploaded to the internet.
‘iOS users often grant camera access to an app soon after they download it (e.g., to add an avatar or send a photo),’ he wrote in a blog post.
‘These apps, like a messaging app or any news-feed-based app, can easily track the users face, take pictures, or live stream the front and back camera, without the user’s consent.
In Apple’s latest operating system, iOS11, permission to access your camera means apps can use the software’s facial recognition system.
This means that malicious apps could be used to secretly detect the emotions of users.
The loophole found by Mr Krause is not a bug but simply takes advantage of the way Apple has set up its permission system.
Mr Krause demonstrated this by building a malicious app that took a photo of its user every second and also tapped into a facial recognition programme.
He said other apps could live stream video of users, read their emotions as they scroll through a social network feed, or record what they are saying.
Mr Krausse said Apple should bring in a system of temporary permissions to stop any malicious apps meddling with users’ cameras.
These permissions would involve allowing apps to take a picture during the set-up process but taking it away after a short period of time.
The other option would be for Apple to introduce a warning light that lets people know when they are being recorded.