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China-friendly code behind the iPhone-crashing bug

July 11, 2018, Chennai

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A code added to "appease" the Chinese government was the culprit behind a bug that crashed iPhones of some users when they wrote "Taiwan" or used the Taiwanese flag emoji, claims a security researcher.

The bug, which is now fixed, was spotted in iOS 11.3, security researcher Patrick Wardle, a former hacker for the US National Security Agency, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.


This bug was remotely triggerable and on an affected device it crashed any iOS application that was processing remote messages, Wardle said.

"Though its impact was limited to a denial of service (null-pointer dereference), it made for an interesting case study of analysing iOS code," Wardle wrote in the blog post.

"And if Apple hadn't tried to appease the Chinese government in the first place, there would be no bug!" he said.

According to a report in Engadget, many tech companies have to write a code to adapt to China's strict rules, including its denial of Taiwan's independent status.

Wardle found that certain language/region settings would return a "null" code, prompting the crash when referencing the island. He also found that one could fix it by switching back and forth between China and another region.

Apple patched the bug in iOS 11.4.1, he said.