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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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There appears to be a new character-linked bug in Messages, Mail, and other apps that can cause the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch to crash when receiving a specific string of characters.

capturetheflagcrashbug.jpg
Image from Twitter​

In this particular case, the character string involves the Italian flag emoji along with characters in the Sindhi language, and it appears the system crash happens when an incoming notification is received with the problem-causing characters.

Based on information shared on Reddit, the character string began circulating on Telegram, but has also been found on Twitter.

These kind of device-crashing character bugs surface every so often and sometimes become widespread, leading to a significant number of people ending up with a malfunctioning iPhone, iPad, or Mac. In 2018, for example, a character string in the Telugu language circulated around the internet, crashing thousands of devices before Apple addressed the problem in an iOS update.

There is often no way to prevent these characters from causing crashes and freezes when received from a malicious person, and crashes caused through notifications often cause operating system re-springs and in some cases, a need to restore a device in DFU mode.

MacRumors readers should be aware that such a bug is circulating, and for those who are particularly concerned, as this bug appears to impact notifications, turning off notifications may mitigate the effects. Apple typically fixes these character bugs within a few days to a week.

Update: According to MacRumors reader Adam, who tested the bug on a device running iOS 13.4.5, the issue is fixed in the second beta of that update.

Article Link: PSA: New Character Bug in Messages Causing iOS Devices to Crash [Updated]
 
Last edited:

ghanwani

macrumors 68030
Dec 8, 2008
2,959
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The person working on this system was pulled off for the COVID tracking project before they could finish testing it. :)
 
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now i see it

macrumors 604
Jan 2, 2002
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While we've heard of certain strings of characters causing re-springs on earlier iOS versions, (which is a minor annoyance) I've never heard of an iPhone getting bricked by it or requiring a system restore.
 
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konqerror

macrumors 68020
Dec 31, 2013
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It's amazing how anyone even finds these sort of things to begin with. Are there people literally typing all sorts of crap in messages to see what sticks?

People use computer programs to automatically spam crap to see what fails. As pointed out that's called "fuzzing", something Apple apparently hasn't been doing.

 
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ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
9,275
5,415
How hard can it possibly be to just have something like:

Code:
try {
    renderText();
} catch (Exception e) {
    renderUnprintable();
    reportToApple(e);
}


I know, that's Java and Apple would actually use Swift, but still, how hard can it possibly be to just not let the exception through?
 
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iStorm

macrumors 6502
Sep 18, 2012
266
337
I really wish Apple would treat your contact list as a whitelist and treat everything else as spam, both calls and messages. Heck, I’d even extend that to email, too.
You can pretty much already do this. You can have unknown numbers be sent to voicemail, and unknown texts be filtered into a separate list. You'll get no notifications for either these.
 
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ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
9,275
5,415
People use computer programs to automatically spam crap to see what fails. As pointed out that's called "fuzzing", something Apple apparently hasn't been doing.


Right - this seems pretty easy to unit-test. Just use Chaos Monkey or something and have it throw every possible combination of characters at it.
 
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dallastigers

macrumors member
Jun 23, 2003
80
17
TX
You can pretty much already do this. You can have unknown numbers be sent to voicemail, and unknown texts be filtered into a separate list. You'll get no notifications for either these.

Has the text setting or functionality changed?

It used to just do separate lists for iMessages not texts which is our problem.
 
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