An iOS bug has been found, that would crash iPhone, iPad and iPod touch models in some regions whenever they typed the word Taiwan or received the ‘Taiwan’ flag emoji. This vulnerability was spotted on iOS 11.3, but has received a fix through the iOS 11.4.1 update. Patrick Wardle, a former NSA security researcher, who found the bug, pointed out that the code was probably due to censorship features for iPhones in China region. Apple has not yet commented on the issue.
According to the researcher, the code written to remove the references to the country’s name and its flag emoji from iOS in certain regions. However, instead of seeing this as missing from the library, there was a problem with the code, which saw the Taiwan flag or Taiwan as invalid input causing the iPhone or iPad to crash. The devices would crash if the word ‘Taiwan’ was typed via iMessage, WhatsApp and similar apps, or if the Taiwan flag emoji was received through any of these apps.
Wardle claims the bug had been for over two years. He wrote in a blog post, “And if Apple hadn’t tried to appease the Chinese government in the first place, there would be no bug!…Though Apple loves to exude an aura of ‘users first’, the reality is they are first and foremost a corporation. As such their primary objective is always profit.”
The iOS crashing bug caused a denial of service attack, and essentially anyone could cause someone’s iPhone to crash in the region by sending the Taiwan flag emoji. This issue was acknowledged by Emojipedia, which was quoted saying that the Taiwan flag was hidden, if an Apple user set their device location to China. For Chinese users, Apple devices would show a missing character tofu, in place of the Taiwan flag emoji. Wardle noted that the bug affected Apple devices with region-less configurations.
Apple has now fixed the issue with the latest iOS 11.4.1 update. Wardle alerted about the issue in June, and the company has now released a patch.