Text Bomb bug that attacked Apple products squashed

Apple defuses ‘text bomb’ bug

A number of text-based apps crashed, became unresponsive or entered an endless bootloop when attempting to show the otherwise little-used character from a language that is spoken by some 75 million people.

A number of text-based apps crashed, became unresponsive or entered an endless bootloop when attempting to show the otherwise little-used character from a language that is spoken by some 75 million people.

Apple has fixed an irritating bug that was apt to wreak havoc on many of the company’s products when they attempted to display a single character from the alphabet of Indian language of Telugu, according to a BBC report.

The tech giant has rolled out software updates for all of its consumer operating systems, referring to the now-fixed flaw as a “memory corruption issue” caused by “processing a maliciously crafted string”.

A number of text-based apps crashed, becoming unresponsive or entered an endless bootloop when attempting to show the otherwise little-used character from a language that is spoken by some 75 million people.

The ‘text bomb’ bug afflicted Apple’s own iMessage app as well as third-party services such as Gmail, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Outlook for iOS, whereas Skype and Telegram were reportedly unaffected.

The flaw was present in the operating systems on a broad swath of Apple’s devices – iPhones, iPads, Mac computers, Apple TV boxes, and smartwatches. It has now been addressed with iOS version 11.2.6 for iPhones and iPads, and with watchOS 4.2.3, tvOS 11.2.6, and macOS 10.13.3 for Apple Watch, Apple TV, and Macs, respectively.

The glitch with the Unicode symbol was first spotted by Italian blog Mobile World, with Apple apparently made aware of it on February 12 or earlier, according to The Verge.

'text bomb'

This symbol was all it took to freeze many Apple devices. Source: Mobileworld.it

The party’s over, kids!

As word of the bug spread, reports began to pour in of pranksters taking to social media apps to post messages that contained the character, thus effectively weaponizing it and borking others’ Apple devices as a result.

To counter the problem, users were advised to delete the entire conversation that contained the Telugu character. This, however, was sometimes easier said than done, and in some cases the affected apps reportedly had to be re-installed.

Over the years, Apple’s devices have grappled with a number of bugs. As recently as last month, the company fixed a ‘text bomb’ flaw after a software developer discovered that a URL link to a specially-engineered website was able to cause a number of issues for devices running macOS and iOS, including freezing and crashing them. In 2015, a sequence of Unicode characters, if sent in a text message, was found capable of crashing and rebooting iPhones.

In 2013, a researcher warned that at least two models of Google’s flagship Nexus Android handsets could be crashed remotely by a flurry of text messages.

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