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Apple iPhone, iPad running iOS 11.3 and iOS 11.4 beta affected by 'black dot' bug

Apple's iOS devices are affected by a new Unicode character bug called black dot.

  • Published: May 10, 2018 10:13 AM IST

Apple iOS 12, the next version of mobile operating system for iPhone, iPod and iPad, will be revealed at WWDC next month. One of the major focus this year is expected to be stability of the operating system and Apple is said to announce fewer features compared to previous years. If you are wondering why Apple is taking such an approach then look no further than the latest unicode bug.

A new Unicode text bug is being spread around today called the ‘black dot’ bug because of its origins on Android as a bug related to WhatsApp. This particular unicode bug became popular after a video posted by EverythingApplePro. The bug is being spread by sending following emoji: <⚫> 👈🏻. The iOS version of this bug is a bit different from the one spotted on Android, but neither variants actually rely on the visible black dot character to cause the device to freeze and crash.

The mechanics of the bug works by exploiting the string which contains thousands of hidden invisible Unicode characters that churn through number of CPU cycles as the system attempts to process them. If this specially crafted text is sent through the Messages app, then it will result in repeated crashes when the recipient tries to read it.

There is a possibility that this same flaw exists on watchOS and tvOS as well. The text handling is an issue that affects all major platforms but iOS has been particularly susceptible. Previously, Apple Messages was found crashing when a Telugu character was sent through the messaging service. Apple fixed the bug with the release of iOS 11.2.6 and the current release of iOS 11.4 beta.

This particular bug affects iOS 11.3 and the current iOS 11.4 beta version of Apple’s mobile platform. In the meantime, iOS users can circumvent the issue by finding a way to get out the messages detail screen. One of the option is to try force-quitting the Messages app and the use 3D Touch to open a New Message pane. Then you can go back to the main messages screen and then delete the message containing the Unicode character. Alternately, users can also delete the message remotely using another iCloud synced device.

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Apple is generally quick to respond with a fix for issues like this. So, expect Apple to release a firmware that fixes this particular character from crashing your iPhone but the larger picture is whether Apple has fallen behind when it comes to fixing these kind of issues even before they come to public light.

  • Published Date: May 10, 2018 10:13 AM IST