This Indian Character Symbol Can Crash Your iPhone | News & Opinion


There’s a new iOS bug that can crash your iPhone. A symbol in the Indian language known as Telugu can wreak havoc over the software.

iOS 11 will struggle to render it whenever the symbol is placed into a text field. Apps that try to do so will freeze and shut down.

The problem gets worse when chat or email apps get involved. PCMag tried the bug on an iPad by sending it messages loaded with the Telugu symbol. Mayhem ensued.

The iPad immediately crashed when the messages were received; iOS’s notification bar failed to process them, forcing the whole system to stop and reload. However, the problems didn’t end there.

Messages written with the Telugu symbol can effectively disable any chat or email app that tries to fetch them on startup. Facebook Messenger, for instance, shut down whenever it came across a chat containing the symbol.

Making matters worse is how other apps, like Yahoo Mail, can constantly trigger the bug when iOS goes idle. That’s because the apps will persistently try to display emails carrying the Telugu symbol as a notification. As a result, our iPad was stuck in a cycle of periodic iOS freezes.

Engineers at software maker Aloha Browser warned about the bug earlier this week. The symbol is actually two Telugu characters that when translated mean the word “sign.” The error itself is caused when the default San Francisco font across Apple devices tries to render the Telugu characters, Aloha browser said in a tweet.

Unfortunately, iOS isn’t the only operating system affected. The bug can also be reproduced on macOS High Sierra (version 10.13), along with the new versions of tvOS and watchOS.

The good news is that the Telugu symbol doesn’t appear to trigger any error when displayed over an internet browser, unless you try pasting it into a text field. Apple says it’s also working on a fix that should be arriving soon. Beta versions of iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS are free of the flaw.

The problem joins a number of iOS bugs involving rigged messages that can disrupt the system. Last month, a software developer found he could overload an iPhone owner’s Messages app by sending it a specially crafted web link. Phones that recieved the link would freeze and possibly restart. Fortunately, Apple quickly issued a fix.

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