A mystery text message which can crash iPhones due to a bug with Apple’s operating system is also having the same effect when the message is sent via Twitter and Snapchat. The bug, which causes Apple’s text handling system to choke on certain characters from Arabic, Marathi and Chinese crashes the iPhones, iPads, Apple watches and Macs to shut down if it’s sent via a direct message or public mention on Twitter’s iOS app(via The Guardian). The issue through the iOS messaging apps was discovered after tests by the Guardian and security researcher Mikko Hypponen.
New iOS Bug Crashing iPhones Simply by Receiving a Text Message
The bug — which was discovered by several users on Reddit — requires a specific string of text containing Arabic, Chinese and Marathi characters to be sent. The receiving iPhone will then crash upon receiving the message and reboot. Users that receive the text through the iPhone’s messages app need to perform a workaround to gain access to the app again.
iPhone text bug can crash Apple Watch, iPad & Mac too
The bug, which was originally identified causing crashes on iPhones, has now been shown to also affect the Apple Watch, causing it to crash when attempting to reply to the offending message via voice using Siri. The text message has also caused iPads to crash, and reportedly can affect Mac laptops and desktops too. The crash is caused by a bug within a core system common to all of Apple’s devices that handles text.
“As the issue also affects OS X applications, a malicious party could set the triggering text as a server message of the day or welcome message, causing a user’s terminal to crash when authenticating to network services,” Mathew Hickey, principal security consultant at MDSec told Forbes.
Those wishing to protect themselves from these attacks can turn off the notification system on iOS devices and stop SMS or iMessages being delivered to the Apple Watch.
Mac users are less likely to be affected by the bug – sending the string via iMessages did not trigger a crash in the Guardian’s testing – but those using the Terminal app to access resources across the internet should be aware that it could be affected if exposed to the text string.
iPhone text crash bug hits Twitter and Snapchat:
Snapchat reportedly experiences similar symptoms, according to the Guardian. But in International Business Times’ tests the app crashes immediately when the text is pasted into a chat window.
In Twitter, any direct message or public mention that includes the string of characters will cause a recipient’s phone, with notifications turned on for Twitter, to crash immediately.
The offending string of text:
لُلُصّبُلُلصّبُررً ॣ ॣh ॣ ॣ
When sent a text chat with the offending string, it permanently crashes the iPhone when the user attempts to read it.
The bug means that the user cannot open their chat history with the person who sent the message without crashing their iPhone. The message cannot be cleared, but other messages can be sent to and received from other contacts.
How to Fix iPhone Crash Text Message Bug:
Apple told the Guardian that it is aware of the bug and will issue a software update to fix it. How long that update will take is unknown: 24 hours after the bug was revealed, it has not been fixed. Users can use the following steps to work around the problem:
- Ask Siri to “read unread messages.”
- Use Siri to reply to the malicious message. After you reply, you’ll be able to open Messages again.
- In Messages, swipe left to delete the entire thread. Or tap and hold the malicious message, tap More, and delete the message from the thread.
The company promises that they “will make a fix available in a software update,” but a time frame for any such fix wasn’t given. Given that third-party apps are now becoming affected without as clear of an easy fix, Apple will probably try to put that update out as soon as possible before more permanent damage befalls any users..