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Iphone Bug IOS Security Apple

A Text Message Can Crash An iPhone and Force It To Reboot 248

DavidGilbert99 writes with news that a bug in iOS has made it so anyone can crash an iPhone by simply sending it a text message containing certain characters. "When the text message is displayed by a banner alert or notification on the lockscreen, the system attempts to abbreviate the text with an ellipsis. If the ellipsis is placed in the middle of a set of non-Latin script characters, including Arabic, Marathi and Chinese, it causes the system to crash and the phone to reboot." The text string is specific enough that it's unlikely to happen by accident, and users can disable text notification banners to protect themselves from being affected. However, if a user receives the crash-inducing text, they won't be able to access the Messages app without causing another crash. A similar bug crashed applications in OS X a few years ago.
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A Text Message Can Crash An iPhone and Force It To Reboot

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  • by ThatsDrDangerToYou ( 3480047 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2015 @09:22AM (#49781769)
    His name is Bobby Tables.

    https://xkcd.com/327/ [xkcd.com]

    I still laugh at this... am I an idiot? Don't answer that.

    • by ZxCv ( 6138 )

      One of the best xkcd's of all time

    • Funny as hell.

  • Apple Watch (Score:3, Funny)

    by danbob999 ( 2490674 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2015 @09:24AM (#49781787)

    Getting notifications on an Apple Watch also protects the iPhone from the bug.

    They have to push sales of the iWatch some ways...

  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2015 @10:12AM (#49782159) Journal

    Years ago, I had a number of Nokia flip phones. I also converted emails to text messages and sent them to the phone (actually, probably MMS, not SMS), so that I could read my emails on a dumb phone.

    However, every now and again, I would receive a "text of death". The phone would receive a text message, crash, reboot, attempt to download text messages again, crash .... etc.. It continued to do this until the network would decide to give up attempting to send that MMS message.

    I had several phones of the same model and they all did this.

    • by Rinikusu ( 28164 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2015 @10:32AM (#49782321)

      See everyone? Apple doesn't invent anything! They just do it with more polish.

    • by timholman ( 71886 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2015 @11:11AM (#49782685)

      However, every now and again, I would receive a "text of death". The phone would receive a text message, crash, reboot, attempt to download text messages again, crash .... etc.. It continued to do this until the network would decide to give up attempting to send that MMS message.

      I've got a better story than that. Back in the mid-80's, when I was working at IBM, we did almost all of our programming in REXX and APL2 using dumb terminals.

      One of the features of the system was the ability to send a message to another user that would appear directly on his or her screen like a text message.

      By accident, one of the guys in my group discovered that by sending a certain string of characters to another user, he could force the receipt's terminal to automatically log off. Predictably, this led to a campaign of various people sending the "message of death" to each other, hearing the recipient yell and curse, and then quickly closing any open file before the victim fired back with a message of his own. This went on for about two weeks before we all got tired of it.

      And of course I could also talk about the REXX worm that shut down the entire IBM internal email system for more than a day, but that is another story. :-)

      Everything old is new again.

    • I came here to comment on this. There are services and botnets that can send millions of simultaneous texts. I once read a blackhat idea of rebooting millions of phones over and over or all at once to see if it would crash the next layers of the networks. Maybe the towers couldn't handle it and would go down. And then ...

  • "You're reading it the wrong way."

  • Did Apple already fix this? I immediately tried to crash every phone of every coworker who has an iPhone within earshot of me and it didn't work. Much to my disappointment. I'm now having to save face by harassing them with Pictures of Steve Job's license plateless car parked in multiple handicapped spots.

    • I immediately tried to crash every phone of every coworker who has an iPhone within earshot of me and it didn't work.

      I too enjoy getting fired over stupid shit. Do you have any other suggestions I might try?

      • What causing your co-workers phone to reboot is a sackable offence where you are? What if you accidentally kick the power cord out of their PC? Doesn't sound like a fun place to be. I did it here but it didn't work, people here were genuinely interested is this was for real or not.
    • Were you using SMS or iMessage? This is probably fixable in iMessage -- they get routed through Apple's servers and could probably be sanitized so that the offending characters can be byte-aligned to avoid the crash -- but SMSes go directly through the carriers and would require an OS update.

  • Maybe this will also crash the NSA sniffing programs.
  • The next time an Apple-head tells you that their walled garden is there to protect the user and improved their experience and make the device more dependable just laugh in their face.

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