Technology

Complete Guide to iPhone Text Bombs And What To Do

Beware! If you open a text, tweet, or email with a particular symbol it could crash your iPhone or Mac!

While iOS is famed for its security, with Apple striving to create an impenetrable operating system, from time to time, Apple users can fall victim to attempts by hackers and tricksters wishing to take advantage of bugs and vulnerabilities in the operating system.

Unfortunately, sometimes these bugs and vulnerabilities are taken advantage of, leaving user’s devices glitching, or worse, exposing them to security risks.

Usually Apple quickly patches such bugs leaving iPhones (and Macs) safe, so Apple devices are usually only vulnerable to these sorts of attacks for a few days. That’s a good reason to keep your iPhone or Mac up to date.

In the latest Italian Flag/Sindhi text incident (April 2020) a text message could crash your iPhone or iPad.

This isn’t the first time a text message bug has done the rounds with the potential to crash iPhones and other devices, we also have details about previous incidents below.

In this article we will offer advice on how to avoid falling victim to these sorts of pranks, and what can do if you do fall foul to one. We’ve got all the help you need, right here.

Sindhi / Italian flag text bomb

In April 2020 a series of characters with the capacity to crash iPhones and iPads was circulating. The characters – written in Sindhi, an Indo-Iranian language – were accompanied by an Italian flag emoji (although any emoji would have had a similar effect because it’s the particular combination of Sindhi characters that is the problem.) More information about the Sindhi/Italian flag text bomb here.

How to fix the Italian flag text bomb

Apparently the issue will be addressed in iOS 13.4.5. That version of iOS 13 is currently in Beta but is likely to launch soon.

  1. If you do receive the text the solution is to use Siri to send a message to the sender, that way you won’t have to view the text on your iPhone.
  2. Once you have sent the new text the problem characters will be removed from the text preview.
  3. You may need to delete the message thread to completely remove the problematic text.

Black Spot of Death

An 2018 text message was also causing iPhones to crash. It was known as the “Black Spot of Death”. If you were unlucky enough to receive it, you would see a black circle emoji.

The black spot actually contained a series of HTML characters that could cause the iPhone to crash.

The malicious text first struck in WhatsApp for Android.

How to fix the Black Spot of Death

The issue was fixed in an update to iOS 11.

To stop the message causing issues, it is suggested that you do the following:

  1. Force quit messages by double pressing the Home button and then swiping up on Messages (swipe up and hold on the iPhone X).
  2. You can either ask Siri to send a message back to the person who sent it (to ensure it is no longer the most recent message), and then open messages and delete that conversation.
  3. Or you can use 3D Touch (hard press) on the Messages app icon and choose New Message and then Tap Cancel. You’ll then be returned to a list of your Messages – swipe left on the offending message to delete it.

Telugu text bomb

Two Unicode symbols from the Telugu language were discovered back in February 2018 that could crash iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple Watches and Apple TVs.

As with the similar Sindhi characters text bomb above, the issue is due to poor handling of certain non-English characters by Apple’s operating systems.

Telugu is a language spoken in India and the issue is with two characters from that alphabet.

If you open a text, Mail, Twitter, Messages, Slack, Instagram or Facebook and the character is visible, on your iPhone or other Apple device it could crash the software. It may be impossible to open the app again, with the only fix being reinstalling the app.

ChaiOS text bomb

This malicious link from January 2018 pointed to a GitHub page and was capable of crashing iOS and macOS if you clicked on it from the Messages app.

It might only crash the Messages app, but it could cause you to be returned to the lock screen, or worse, freeze or even restart the device.

Twitter user Abraham Masri, who identified the issue, said the link could cause devices to freeze, respiring, lag, and on occasion, experience battery issues. Respring is a term used to describe the device restarting from SpringBoard (iOS’s graphical user interface), it takes about 10 seconds and returns you to the lock screen.

It could also cause problems with Safari on the Mac, according to 9to5Mac report.

Being referred to as the ChaiOS bug, or the return of “Effective Power”, a similar attack from 2015, this isn’t really a security concern, because it won’t give anyone access to data on your device, but it would be a nuisance if you were to click on the link.

How to fix the ChaiOS bug

If you do receive the iMessage with the link don’t click on the link.

If you have already clicked on it apparently reopening the message could crash your device again, so the best practice is to completely delete the thread (and probably remove the person from your contacts if you considered them a friend in the first place!)

Rainbow iPhone text crash bug

The rainbow iPhone text crash bug hit in January 2017 and could disable an iPhone, although not permanently. This particular bug could affect any iPhone running almost any iteration of iOS 10 and there was not a lot users could do to protect themselves from it.

Unlike with previous iPhone bugs (like the video crash bug described below) that required the user to interact with something to crash the phone, this bug could crash a user’s iPhone without them even opening the text. There were two versions of the bug: one would crash your iPhone once, while the other would continue to crash your iPhone repeatedly. To stop people trolling and potentially bricking iPhones, we’re staying tight-lipped on how to do the latter.

However, as revealed by EverythingApplePro on YouTube, the non-threatening version of the bug only requires two emoji and a number – a white flag, a zero and a rainbow. It’s in the description of the YouTube video for those that really want to troll people. But why does it crash? The trick is that there’s also a hidden VS16 character that tells the two emoji to combine to make a rainbow flag, but as iOS 10 cannot handle the request, it’ll crash the iPhone instead.

How fix the rainbow iPhone text crash bug

Your iPhone should restart seconds after turning off and should go back to normal, but we recommend deleting the text and thread from the Messages app. But what happens if the Messages app freezes when you open it? Don’t worry, as it’s fairly easy to fix. It’s worth noting that this method should fix issues brought by not only the “harmless” bug, but also the one that continues to crash your iPhone for some time afterwards.

  1. Open Safari on your iPhone and head to vincedes3.com/save.html
  2. Heading to the website should force a dialogue box to appear saying “Open this page in Messages”. Tap Open.
  3. This should redirect you to your Messages app, hopefully without it crashing. Once you’re in the app, delete the malicious text thread along with the Vincedes text and your iPhone should be back to normal.

iPhone crashing video

Back in November 2016 a video bug started doing the rounds that could cause temporary issues for iOS users, with some using it as a way to prank friends, family and those that are gullible enough to fall for it on the internet.

The bug affected anybody that attempted to play a certain .mp4 video in Safari on any iOS device as it would cause the device to slow down and eventually freeze altogether. As you can see in the below video, viewing the video in Apple’s default web browser would cause iOS to overload and over time, become unusable.

The most likely reason why the crashes were happening was that the video file was corrupted with a memory leak that iOS wasn’t sure how to handle. Other theories include the possibility that the video has an extra structure at the end of the file with no defined size, along with the claim that it’s just an issue with the h.260 video codecs.

The bug affected any iPhone running iOS 5 or later, with those running the (at the time current) iOS 10.2 beta 2 suffering the most. Those running the beta were be greeted with the spinning wheel usually displayed during shutdown, although the phone itself wouldn’t shut down.

How to fix iPhone crashing video

If you’ve fallen victim to the video and your iPhone has crashed – don’t worry, as there’s an easy fix available. The solution? Force restart (or soft restart, as it’s also known) your iPhone by holding the Home and Power buttons at the same time. The process of force restarting an iPhone 7 and 7 Plus is slightly different due to the software-enabled Home button, and requires users to hold down the Power and Volume Down buttons at the same time to restart the device.

But how do you avoid falling victim to this prank while Apple works hard to patch the vulnerability? There isn’t a lot that you can do to avoid it, sadly, although most users report that the videos come from vk(dot)com and testtrial.site90(dot)net. If true, it should be as simple as not clicking on any links that friends send you that feature either domain in the URL.

The good news is that it doesn’t appear to leave any lasting damage on iOS devices, and it should be back to normal once force restarted. Apple will no doubt be working on a patch right now, and it should be delivered via an OTA update in the coming days. Once Apple releases the update, simply update your iPhone to the latest version of iOS and you should no longer have the issue – even if you do play the video in Safari.

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