2 min read

Text 'bomb' crashes iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches - what you need to know

Graham CLULEY

April 24, 2020

Ad One product to protect all your devices, without slowing them down.
Free 90-day trial
Text 'bomb' crashes iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches - what you need to know

An innocent-looking message, containing characters in the Sindhi language, can cause your
iPhone, iPad, Mac, or even Apple Watch to crash without warning.

The problem appears to exists in how the latest shipping versions of Apple’s operating system handle a Unicode symbol representing specific characters written in Sindhi, an official language in part of Pakistan.

The problem occurs most irritatingly when your device attempts to display a message notification. If you have configured your iPhone, for instance, to display a new message notification which includes a preview of the message, then iOS fails to properly render the characters and crashes with unpredictable results.

You may find the only way to get around the problem is to completely reboot your device – but there is always the risk that you will receive a new boobytrapped notification.

The problem can also manifest itself inside apps. For instance, some mischievous Twitter users have tweeted the offending characters causing other users to have their devices crash.

Android users, meanwhile, are unaffected – and can watch the chaos with bemusement.

Some of the earliest reports suggested that for the attack to work the Sindhi characters had to be used in conjunction with an Italian flag emoji. However, others have claimed that an Italian flag is not required to be in the message for devices to crash.

Clearly such a flaw is irritating, especially if you happen to find yourself receiving a barrage of text ‘bombs’.

If all this sounds like a familiar problem to you, that’s because Apple has had problems in the past with Unicode characters crashing its operating systems.

For instance, way back in 2013 it was found that Macs and iPhones could be crashed by a simple string of Arabic characters.

In 2015, an attack called “Effective Power” saw iPhones being remotely rebooted when pranksters sent a sequence of characters via iMessage.

And in 2018 we saw both Apple devices crash as they attempted to display letters from the south Indian language of Telugu, and the so-called chaiOS bug made it possible to crash iOS and macOS with a single text message.

The answer in all these cases has been for Apple to push out a fix to its operating systems to better handle the Unicode symbol.

And that”s what, I”m sure, will happen this time. According to those who have tested it, the latest beta version of iOS already incorporates a fix for the problem – so we may only be days away from having it pushed out to our vulnerable devices.

In the meantime, if you are worried or think you might be targeted by a mischief-maker who delights in crashing your device, you might be wise to disable message previews on your iPhone.

tags


Author



Right now

Top posts

August Spam Debrief: Bitdefender Labs Warns of Fraud Campaigns Exploiting the Russia-Ukraine War

August Spam Debrief: Bitdefender Labs Warns of Fraud Campaigns Exploiting the Russia-Ukraine War

August 31, 2022

4 min read
Snake Keylogger Returns in Malspam Campaign Disguised as Business Portfolio from IT Vendor

Snake Keylogger Returns in Malspam Campaign Disguised as Business Portfolio from IT Vendor

August 30, 2022

2 min read
What is medical identity theft and how to protect against it

What is medical identity theft and how to protect against it

July 27, 2022

2 min read
Curious about Omegle? Here’s how the roulette-style chat platform can threaten your online privacy and security

Curious about Omegle? Here’s how the roulette-style chat platform can threaten your online privacy and security

July 07, 2022

5 min read
Identifying and Dealing with Online Bullying Is Not Impossible - School Presentation Inside

Identifying and Dealing with Online Bullying Is Not Impossible - School Presentation Inside

June 28, 2022

2 min read
Let’s Celebrate World Social Media Day by Improving Your Privacy and Security Online

Let’s Celebrate World Social Media Day by Improving Your Privacy and Security Online

June 28, 2022

3 min read

FOLLOW US ON

SOCIAL MEDIA


You might also like

Prison for ex-eBay staff who aggressively cyberstalked company's critics with Craigslist sex party ads and funeral wreaths Prison for ex-eBay staff who aggressively cyberstalked company's critics with Craigslist sex party ads and funeral wreaths
Graham CLULEY

September 30, 2022

2 min read
Honolulu Man Sabotaged Former Employer’s Network and Business Using Still-Active Credentials Honolulu Man Sabotaged Former Employer’s Network and Business Using Still-Active Credentials
Silviu STAHIE

September 30, 2022

1 min read
North Korean Gang Uses Compromised Open Source Software to Distribute Malware, Researchers Find North Korean Gang Uses Compromised Open Source Software to Distribute Malware, Researchers Find
Silviu STAHIE

September 30, 2022

1 min read