The text message bug that causes iPhones to crash
Published 29/05/2015 | 02:30
Sending a text message with certain letters and characters in it can crash iPhones, Apple has admitted.
The bug, which is currently being fixed, affects text messages between iPhones using iMessage.
It also affects iMessage texts to iPads and Apple Watch devices but does not occur with Android phones.
The crash occurs when a text displays certain non-Latin text characters in notification alerts.
The flaw causes the iPhone receiving the message to crash and reboot as long as the recipient is not viewing the message conversation when the text is received.
The bug requires a specific set of characters to be sent, with Arabic characters being used by those crashing the iPhones of others.
“We are aware of an iMessage issue caused by a specific series of unicode characters and we will make a fix available in a software update,” said an Apple spokesman.
There have been no reports so far of any permanent damage to iPhones or iPads or any loss of data.
And while IT security experts say that it may be theoretically possible to try and use the flaw as an attack mechanism, there is no evidence of such activity.
However, Tim Erkin, director of product management at cyber security firm Tripwire, said: “The ability to remotely disable someone’s iPhone could be useful in targeted attacks.
“Imagine if an organisation’s information security team was suddenly unable to communicate while an attack on their organisation was being carried out.”
Some people have reported that by turning off notification banners they have been able to avoid being affected by the bug and that sending a photo to the contact who sent you the message, then clearing the conversation history, will remove the flaw.
There have also been reports that the bug is effective when sent using instant messaging service WhatsApp.
Though some users have reported the crash has caused them to be unable to access their messages, those on the social media site Reddit are using the bug as a prank rather than a serious breach of iPhone security.
Last year, a bug was discovered in photo-sharing app Snapchat that enabled attackers to flood an iPhone with information and crash it. Apple is expected to kick off its annual developer conference next week.
How to stop text bug
Apple says that it is working to fix the bug that lets people reset others’ iPhones by simply sending them a particular text message. In the meantime, here’s how you can prevent your phone from falling prey to the bug.
(i) Go to ‘settings’
(ii) Click on ‘notifications’
(iii) Now click on ‘messages’
(iv) Switch off the button that says ‘allow notifications’.
A formal fix for the bug is expected before Apple’s annual software developer conference kicks off next week.