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The iOS Bug That Crashes Apple Devices Upon Typing “Taiwan”

by Abeerah Hashim
Taiwan iOS bug

Sometimes, technology unintentionally becomes a part of world politics. The same happened to Apple lately. Due to China’s dominant approach towards Taiwan, several tech companies have modified their policies to ensure not to cause a rift with the country. However, Apple seems to have unknowingly gone the extra mile with some buggy code. A researcher discovered how a Taiwan iOS bug crashed iPhones and iPads after typing ‘Taiwan’ or using Taiwanese flag emoji.

Taiwan iOS Bug Crashed iOS

A few days ago, a security researcher discovered an interesting bug in iOS. According to his observation, typing “Taiwan” or using the Taiwanese flag emoji made some iOS devices crash. He explained this Taiwan iOS bug as a “denial of service” (DoS) flaw.

The researcher Patrick Wardle discovered this flaw in an iPhone 7 running iOS 11.3. He explained his findings in a blog post on July 10, 2018. According to him, the bug was due to some “China-friendly” code for devices having China as the location.

However, the code then turned into a bug for devices with no region specified. Thus, whenever someone would type the word “Taiwan” or mention Taiwan’s flag emoji, the iOS would crash. Wardle explained in his blog,

“This bug is (was) remotely triggerable and on an affected device, will crash any iOS application that is processing remote messages (iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc.)!”

Censoring ‘Taiwan’ Is An Attempt To Please China

According to Patrick Wardle, considering the China-Taiwan controversy, Apple has created a specialized code that would simply censor Taiwan’s mention if the device location is set to China. The moment the device location is changed, these codes will work normally.

According to emojipedia,

“This Taiwanese flag is hidden from the emoji keyboard on iOS devices when the region is set to China. Chinese iPhones will not display this emoji and will instead show a missing character tofu (☒) in place of the flag.”

Apple Fixed The Bug After Being Notified

The researcher notified Apple of his discovery since he wasn’t sure if other iOS versions also had this bug. After being notified, Apple patched the vulnerability (assigned CVE-2018-4290) in the iOS 11.4.1. So the users will not face any iPhone or iPad crashes if they ever want to mention Taiwan in their conversations.

This is not the first time that an iOS bug has had trouble with user input. Last year, a weird bug in iOS 11 irritated users as it autocorrected the letter ‘I’ with ‘A’ with a symbol.

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