Apple working on patch for text message bug that forces iPhones to shutdown

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 May, 2015, 11:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 May, 2015, 3:39pm

Apple is working on a fix for a recently discovered bug that makes it possible to crash a user's iPhone or iPad by sending the device a specific string of text.

The bug, which includes symbols and Arabic characters, was widely reported upon after it was flagged by users of social news hub Reddit this week.

"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," Apple said in a statement.

Unicode is an international standard for the display of text characters in multiple different languages across devices.

The bug appears to be related to how the most recent versions of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS, handle the display of notifications containing Arabic characters. A specific string of characters, received as a notification, causes a major error on the device, leading to a restart.

Reddit users reported that the bug occurred whether the notification was received as a text message or via WhatsApp, Facebook or any other messaging service.

Until Apple releases a patch, the exploit can be avoided by disabling notifications for messaging apps. Those whose devices have crashed as a result of the bug can restore their phones to normal by responding to the sender from a different device, or asking them to send another message.

It is unclear just how long Apple has been aware of the bug, several Reddit users said that the exploit had been known about for months, with one commenting that they had contacted Apple in January to report the issue, but did not receive any response.

Around 48 per cent of Hong Kong smartphone owners use a version of iOS, according to web analytics firm Clicky.

Additional reporting by Reuters