Taiwanese flag emoji causes iPhones to crash in China

iOS 11’s USB Restricted Mode Can Be Prevented From Engaging Using USB Accessory

iPhone crash? Might have been China's dislike for Taiwan's flag

Even Apple, one of the most valuable companies in the world, has to play ball.

Wardle was alerted to the bug by a Taiwanese friend who complained that her iPhone messaging apps would crash when she tried to type Taiwan. English can still be set as the primary language, though. This feature is supposed to make it more hard for hackers - as well as law enforcement and government agencies - to unlock your iPhone. In recent version of iOS, the typing in a country name also displays the nation's flag emoji.

The intended behavior of this code is not to crash your phone, obviously.

But iPhone users still can't put Taiwanese flags into their texts, so it looks like Apple has bowed down to China and is adhering to the nation's censorship and seeming dislike of freedom of speech, which we reckon iPhone users wouldn't want having shelled out for a high-end smartphone. The bug affected nearly every messaging app including iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp.

He said the emoji triggered a crash in iOS as the censored version of the operating system read it is an "invalid input", rather than a symbol missing from Apple's library.

Taiwan, of course, is self-governing and considers itself independent of mainland China. Before Apple's fix, changing the iPhone's region could have worked around the bug. China claimed Taiwan as its territory, but Taiwan insisted on its right to self-govern.

An iOS bug found by ex-NSA security researcher Patrick Wardle crashed users' iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch models in certain regions every time they typed Taiwan in iMessage, Facebook, WhatsApp, or any other app, or received the Taiwanese flag emoji. These restrictions drove Google to end its Chinese business operations a decade ago.

"Though its impact was limited to a denial of service (NULL-pointer dereference), it made for an interesting case study of analyzing iOS code", Wardle, a former hacker for the National Security Agency, wrote in a blog post. In fact, the full list of security fixes included in the update can be found on the company's website but, of particular interest is the second entry regarding how emoji were handled under certain circumstances.

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