Pranksters have been running rampant across iOS devices over the past few weeks. Earlier last week, a bug was exploited that would crash an iPhone user’s phone when he or she received a certain Unicode text message. This week, the pranks have moved onto Snapchat and Twitter, crashing phones with social media notifications.
The original text message prank started when someone discovered that sending a string of specific Unicode characters as a text message could cause the phone on the receiving end to crash. When users receive the text message in a pop-up notification, the code prompts the phone to overuse its resources, which in turn crashes the device. Apple techs have been working on a patch that will disable this feature.
In the meantime, hackers are able to move onto social media networks like Snapchat and Twitter to exploit the very same glitch. A research officer at a Finland based security firm demonstrated this capability last week. Apple hasn’t specifically said it is researching a patch for the Snapchat/Twitter bug, but it did say it would be making a fix available in an upcoming software update. When the update will be release still remains unknown.
In the meantime, it is relatively easy to avoid the bug altogether. Both the text message and social media bug operate under one major flaw: they only work when they are sent as notifications. That means users who have notifications turned off will never have to deal with the issue. Consumers who are worried about receiving a buggy notification simply have to change their settings and turn off notifications until a patch is released.
Alternatively, iPhone users can ask Siri to read and respond to the message (so they don’t have to open their phone and cause the crash). Once Siri responds to the message, users can safely open their message center and resume regular activity.
Luckily, the events of the past two weeks were just harmless pranks that didn’t cause any long-term damage, but it does speak to the amount of work Apple has put into their latest iOS. Since the release of iOS 8 last year, they have already released six patches to fix bugs. Now it looks like number seven is in order.