A specific text character can crash iPhones or start a continuous reboot loop

A recent bug report reveals that a specific Indian language text character caused the iOS springboard to crash, locking users out of the Messages app and other third-party apps. Apple provides a fix in the latest iOS beta.

Italian blog Mobile World recently discovered a new bug in iOS 11 that will crash or send the iPhone into a continuous reboot loop when users receive a specific text character in a message. This character also blocks access to popular apps such as Facebook Messenger, Gmail, Outlook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and more along with the Messages app for iOS. But the issue isn’t just iOS-related; the character-driven problem resides on MacOS and WatchOS, too.

According to the report, the iOS Springboard crashes when it receives a message containing an Indian language (Telugu) character. Once it’s received, Messages fails to load because it’s trying to load a character iOS simply can’t render. For now, the only way to fix the issue is to have someone join the instant message thread and delete the offensive character entry, reports claim.

As for the third-party apps outside Messages, the same character will disable these services once iPhone owners receive a message within these apps. To fix the problem, users must go online and delete the offending message from the web-based version, such as Facebook Messenger and Gmail. Telegram and Skype are not affected by the “bad character” according to additional reports.

Apple is already aware of the issue. OpenRadar shows that a community bug report surfaced on February 12, but Apple replied that “this [report] is a duplicate and the original bug was closed.” The public beta of iOS 11.3 reportedly doesn’t crash after receiving the character, thus the official fix should be in the hands of iOS device owners when 11.3 goes live this spring.

Although Apple generates solid, dependable hardware, the company’s devices aren’t entirely immune from software glitches. Just last month, Apple patched a problem with the Messages app that froze or restarted the device after receiving a specific website link. Discovered by software developer Abraham Masri, iPhone owners didn’t even need to click the link to see their device crash: Messages automatically generates a preview of linked websites.

In his proof-of-concept bug report, Masri took advantage of Apple’s software guidelines, which allow website developers to inject characters into the webpage code, specifically the metadata section, to tailor the site for previewing within Messages. But Masri injected the metadata with more text characters than iOS could handle, causing Messages to crash.

The current problem with the Telugu character resides within the iOS system text renderer, which is why third-party apps also suffer the same Messages fate. But as previously stated, the issue isn’t just locked to iOS: the bug report lists MacOS and WatchOS, too. That indicates all three system text renderers are incompatible with the Telugu character, resulting in havoc, thus customers should expect to see Mac and Apple Watch device updates in the near future, too.

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