Apple squashes bug that caused Taiwan to crash iPhones

Not exactly China's favorite flag

China, as it often does, responded with censorship. He said his fix addressed code Apple added likely to appease the Chinese government; this is the code that caused crashes on certain iDevices when users typed the word Taiwan or received messages containing a Taiwanese flag emoji.

As the chief research officer at cyber-security company Digita Security, Wardle published details of his bug discovery in a personal blog post. According to Wardle, this bug was simple to reproduce on iPhones with country codes that included China or language settings including Chinese. The bug affected nearly every messaging app including iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. Eventually, the researcher was able to figure out that the bug was caused by iOS mishandling how it applied a filter based on location. By observing the phone's memory and system restore files, Wardle managed to extract some of the code libraries. Apple had configured iOS to flag messages, both types and received, that included the Taiwan flag emoji. On the side of the recipient, whenever an app would show the flag emoji, it would end up crashing.

Fortunately for iPhone users, Apple already patched the bug in a July 9 update labeled iOS 11.4.1.

The filter, apparently, was to block the flag and name of Taiwan from users in the heavily-censored mainland China. China claims the country as its territory, but Taiwan claims it has the right to self-govern.

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Wardle traced the likely objective of the buggy code to documented iOS behavior that hides the Taiwanese flag from the emoji menu or from being displayed on the screen when the region is set to China.

Apple has since moved to squash the bug, and as a result, typing Taiwan into iMessage on an iPhone in China doesn't crash it.

Luckily, that code won't cause a problem for non-Chinese iPhones anymore.

Simply switching the region back again would fix the issue.

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