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iOS bug crashes the Messages app and reboots the iPhone

A bug in the iOS can crash the Messages app and reboot the iPhone automatically, when a particular message is sent.

As IBTimes says in a report (opens in new tab), many iPhone users on social media are highlighting the problem, with some spreading the particular text string that can be sent to someone in order to force their phone to crash, while others are wondering why their iPhones are randomly crashing and rebooting.

The text string, written partly in Arabic, crashes the Messages app and reboots the iPhone, but causes no long-term damage to the device. The bug is limited to iPhone-to-iPhone communications, meaning it does not affect iPads, iPods or Mac computers.

However, once the phone is rebooted, you mustn't reopen the Messages app, otherwise you will simply repeat the vicious circle. The only way to end this agony is to wait for someone else to send you a new message.

You can also send yourself a new message if you have the means.

This is not the first time a bug like this has emerged, 9to5Mac reports (opens in new tab). In fact, similar things have happened several times in the past, but Apple always fixes the bugs in a timely manner.

IBTimes UK has asked Apple for a comment on this issue but at the time of publication has not received a response.

Industry Comment

Mark James, security specialist at ESET: "These type of “Bugs” have been around since the birth of operating systems(OS). When the OS tries to interpret something it cannot understand or fully achieve it has a few options open to it.

"One of those options is a reboot. I am sure we have all had our desktop machines reboot after a seemingly random event has triggered the dreaded reboot. These mobile computers we call phones today have the same core instructions - if all else fails then reboot.

"This bug manifests itself when banner notifications are switched on for SMS messages and then displayed on your phone. The resulting action (SMS display) is not able to be fully displayed, thus a reboot is the only option. This does not necessarily mean it’s a security flaw or indeed an exploitable bug but Apple will none the less try and rectify this as soon as they possibly can.

Tim Erlin, Director of Product Management at Tripwire: "This is essentially a remote denial of service vulnerability, using SMS as the vector. The ability to remotely disable someone’s iPhone could be useful in targeted attacks. Imagine if an organizations information security team was suddenly unable to communicate while an attack on their organisation was being carried out.

There are likely other ways to exploit this vulnerability, though it’s unclear if they might be useful to attackers. The libraries used for parsing text are unlikely to be specific to the messaging app, and so the issue may appear in other places. Time will tell if security researchers or Apple discover them first.

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.