Developer Warns That Granting iPhone Camera Permissions Allows Apps to Secretly Capture You

Following the demonstration of a phishing attack that used Apple-style password requests to get into an iPhone user's Apple ID account, developer Felix Krause this week has detailed another proof-of-concept project, this time focused on the iPhone's cameras.

Krause warned that any time you grant an app permission to access your iPhone's front and back cameras, the app can secretly take pictures and videos of you as long as it's running in the foreground (via Motherboard).

iphone8designcameras
Similar to his previous blog post, Krause's camera privacy project isn't about disclosing a new iOS bug, but more about warning users that this kind of privacy violation is possible within iOS. Many apps regularly request permission to the camera in iOS, allowing users to post photos from their Camera Roll, take a picture within the app without leaving it, and more.

Krause explained that with these permissions granted to a malicious app, the iPhone's front and back cameras can be turned on when that app is running. From there it could record content, upload it online, and even run real-time facial recognition software to detect emotions, all without indicating that your iPhone is recording you or your surroundings.

watch user screenshot


Krause created a demo called watch.user to further emphasize his point, creating a fake social network app that tracks the user. As you browse, Krause explained, "you'll suddenly see pictures of yourself, taken a few seconds ago while you scrolled through the feed." In the image above, he explained that with a vision framework in iOS 11 a developer could even map someone's face to track their expressions, and Krause's mapping software displayed a corresponding emoji as a further proof of concept.

The developer said that there are "only a few things you can do" to potentially prevent this from happening, including purchasing camera covers to place over your iPhone's lenses. Otherwise, you have to revoke camera access for all apps -- which would greatly hinder the usefulness of many apps -- and instead always use Apple's built-in Camera app.


Krause reported the issue to Apple, and mentioned a few ways it could be potentially addressed:

- Offer a way to grant temporary access to the camera (e.g. to take and share one picture with a friend on a messaging app), related to detect.location.

- Show an icon in the status bar that the camera is active, and force the status bar to be visible whenever an app accesses the camera

- Add an LED to the iPhone’s camera (both sides) that can’t be worked around by sandboxed apps, which is the elegant solution that the MacBook uses

To double check which apps have access to your iPhone's cameras and photo library, navigate to the Settings app in iOS, tap Privacy, and there you'll find Photos and Camera. Apps that you've granted access to each will be listed, and you can change settings with toggles or choosing to "Never" allow access. As a point of emphasis, Krause's project isn't a bug or a major security breach you need to worry about, but it is a good reminder to ensure the apps you grant camera access to are trustworthy.

Related Forums: iPhone, iOS 11

Popular Stories

Apple Vision Pro 2 Feature 2

Apple Reportedly Suspends Work on Vision Pro 2

Tuesday June 18, 2024 8:17 am PDT by
Apple has suspended work on the second-generation Vision Pro headset to singularly focus on a cheaper model, The Information reports. Apple was widely believed to have plans to divide its Vision product line into two models, with one "Pro" model and one lower-cost standard model. The company is said to have been deprioritizing the next Vision Pro headset over the past year, gradually...
Apple WWDC24 Apple Intelligence hero 240610

Apple Explains iPhone 15 Pro Requirement for Apple Intelligence

Wednesday June 19, 2024 4:48 am PDT by
With iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia, Apple is introducing a new personalized AI experience called Apple Intelligence that uses on-device, generative large-language models to enhance the user experience across iPhone, iPad, and Mac. These new AI features require Apple's latest iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max models to work, while only Macs and iPads with M1 or later chips will...
M4 Real Feature Red

M4 MacBook Pro Models Expected to Launch in Late 2024

Tuesday June 18, 2024 10:50 am PDT by
MacBook Pro models with an M4 chip are expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2024, according to display analyst Ross Young. In a tweet for subscribers, Young said that panel shipments for new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models are set to begin in the third quarter of 2024, which suggests a launch toward the end of the year. Apple started its M4 chip refresh in May with the launch...
2022 back to school apple feature

Apple's 2024 Back to School Sale Launching This Week

Monday June 17, 2024 12:27 pm PDT by
Apple will launch its annual Back to School promotion for university students in the United States and Canada this week, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Apple's back to school sales provide students with a free Apple gift card when purchasing a Mac or an iPad, and this year's promotion could help Apple push the new M2 iPad Air and M4 iPad Pro models. Last year, Apple offered U.S....
iOS 18 Calendar Feature

iOS 18: Calendar App Design Changes and Reminders Integration

Tuesday June 18, 2024 6:16 am PDT by
Apple in iOS 18 has given the Calendar app a major update, adding some welcome interface design changes, not to mention long-awaited integration with Reminders. In the month-by-month calendar view, the month now appears in large bold font in the top left, while the Events list toggle has been replaced by a new button that lets you choose between Compact, Stacked, Details, and List views. ...
watchOS 11 Thumb 2 1

watchOS 11 Supports Automatic Nap Detection

Monday June 17, 2024 4:05 pm PDT by
watchOS 11 appears to include a new feature that allows an Apple Watch to automatically detect and record when you're taking a nap. As shared on Reddit, an Apple Watch owner took a nap and was able to see the sleep data recorded in the Health app, despite not putting the device in Sleep Mode. Right now, the Apple Watch only tracks and records sleep when it is in Sleep Mode, and there is no...

Top Rated Comments

D.T. Avatar
87 months ago
This is exactly why I parade around in front of my iPhone in the nude ...
Score: 58 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macguru212 Avatar
87 months ago
This is exactly why I parade around in front of my iPhone in the nude ...
Yes, we know.
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Bug-Creator Avatar
87 months ago
Newsflash:

Allowing an app to use the camera will allow the app to the camera !!!!!!!


*doh*

Solution:
Deny such request for any app that doesn't NEED the camera.
If the app asks again -> delete
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Futurix Avatar
87 months ago
So the app that was explicitly granted permission to use the camera can use it while you actively use the app? OUTRAGE!

I could see that as an issue if it would be able to still use the camera in the background - but it doesn’t!
So what’s the issue?

And iOS 11 introduced separate permissions for using camera and accessing photos - so apps can be more granular at permissions.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HacKage Avatar
87 months ago
A couple of sarky comments along the lines of "If you grant permission, then duh". The problem is that it is recording covertly, while you are browsing normal content. There's no need to be a dick about it, there are numerous apps out there that you grant camera permission to, kids will use filter apps to edit their pics etc. How about when you're on the can browsing through an Instagram style app viewing content, totally oblivious to the fact that it is recording the whole thing? The ideal solution is the LED that the MacBooks have. Having that tie in with a notification light for the OS would be even better.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Hater Avatar
87 months ago
This is exactly why I parade around in front of my iPhone in the nude ...
I wonder if these app developers that do such things could go to jail for underage naked photos if one of the many under 18 phone users was nude while using their app.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)