SMS attack crashes iOS devices

Anthony Caruana
28 May, 2015
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Security

An SMS messaging attack that instantly crashes iOS devices when you open a message has been discovered by some Reddit users.

The message is a specific string of Arabic characters that can be sent by anyone via iMessage or SMS.

The Arabic string responsible is shown in the adjacent image.

Reddit users discovered the bug this morning and since then it seems to be spreading around the globe. Opening the message instantly crashes the device and causes it to restart,

It appears that the attack is caused by a flaw in how iOS deals with Arabic text. Apple devices render characters in Unicode. Unicode is a text encoding standard that allocates a unique numerical identifier for every character, regardless of platform, program, or language.

There are clear benefits to this approach as it means Apple’s computers and portable devices can render almost any character from any language.

When iOS can’t process a particular sequence of characters the operating system it causes a crash. Apple should be able to fix the problem quickly by issuing a patch for affected systems.

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