New character bug in messages causes Apple devices to crash

  • Cybersecurity
  • Friday, 24 Apr 2020

A bug – made of a string of characters including the Italian flag – is crashing Apple devices that receive it in notifications. — Dreamstime/TNS

A new bug that uses a specific string of characters in the Sindhi language, along with the Italian flag, can cause Apple devices to crash.

Mac Rumors reported that the bug took effect when sent to an iOS device via text, either through Messages, Mail or other apps. It would then cause the crash once the incoming notification is received.

The bug can affect any device running on iOS, including the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac computers.

Mac Rumors warned there was no way to prevent the issue, as crashes caused through notifications often cause operating system (OS) re-springs – a kind of soft reboot – and in some cases, a need to restore a device in Device Firmware Update (DFU) mode.

DFU mode is a state users can manually set the phone to, so that it can interface with outside software like iTunes but doesn’t load the device’s OS, which in this case has been compromised.

The website recommends that users turn off notifications until Apple comes up with an update to match the bug.

A similar bug hit iOS devices in 2018, using an Indian language character, in Telugu, that crashed the device and rendered messaging apps which displayed said character inaccessible.

It worked by crashing the iOS Springboard (the application that manages the home screen on iOS devices).

This in turn caused the message app to no longer open as the app would try and fail to load the character. Apple patched the issue with a software update.

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