On November 30th, a Reddit user reported that their Android phone could not call 911 during a medical emergency. Google has now reproduced the bug and confirms that, oddly enough, Microsoft Teams is to blame. The companies are now working to patch this issue, but in the meantime, Android users with Teams should take a moment to make sure that they’re safe.
Update, 1/5/22 9:37 am Eastern: Microsoft issued an emergency app update to resolve this problem shortly after it was identified. Still, Android phone manufacturers need to patch the vulnerability that led to this bug in the first place. And that may take some time.
For example, Google just patched the vulnerability in most of its phones—specifically the Pixel 3 and all later devices. But Google hasn’t pushed a fix for the Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro, which are waiting for a delayed end-of-month update.
Here’s the good news—this problem seems to affect a small number of devices running Android 10 or later, and you may only encounter it if you’re logged out of the Teams app. If you’re currently typing away at coworkers in the Microsoft Teams app, or never installed it in the first place, Google says you’re good.
We determined that the issue was being caused by unintended interaction between the Microsoft Teams app and the underlying Android operating system. Because this issue impacts emergency calling, both Google and Microsoft are heavily prioritizing the issue, and we expect a Microsoft Teams app update to be rolled out soon
So what can you do? Check your phone’s Settings to see if you’re running Android 10, Android 11, or Android 12. If so, look in your app drawer to see if you’ve installed Microsoft Teams, even if you don’t remember installing it. Then, either log into it or uninstall the sucker. (Google says uninstalling and reinstalling Teams will also fix the issue, but I don’t see the point in reinstalling Teams if you don’t plan to log in.)
Google says that Microsoft will roll out an emergency Teams update that resolves this issue. But this whole situation isn’t very comforting. How can a single app change the way that the Android operating system makes emergency calls? And could malicious app developers exploit this vulnerability in the future?
We will update this article when Microsoft pushes a fix.