Apple bug crashes iPhones when typing ‘Taiwan’

iPhone Apple Taiwan
Image Credit: Patrick Wardle

Apple has sometimes gone out of its way to appease the Chinese government and its users feel the worst effects of it. Case in point – just typing the word Taiwan or using the Taiwanese flag causes certain iPhones to crash.

The bug was discovered by security researcher Patrick Wardle who wrote about the issue on his personal blog, Objective-See. He stumbled across it when a Taiwanese friend of his alerted him to the problem. Every time she wrote the word Taiwan or got sent a message with the Taiwanese flag, her iPhone switched off.

Reasons Behind Taiwan iPhone Bug

This kept happening no matter which application she was using, from the native Messages app to WhatsApp. Wardle investigated the matter and discovered that iOS 11.3 and below have a bug which results in iPhones and iPads crashing when the word Taiwan is typed.

In technical terms, this kept happening because of a “null” pointer dereference. A removeEmoji operation led to a system instruction which checked the device’s region settings. The function then crashed under certain conditions related to Chinese region settings.

In non-technical terms, Apple inserted code into its OS to prevent the Taiwan flag from showing up in Chinese iPhones. It must have made a mistake somewhere, because iOS devices set to “unsupported region-less states” are also affected by the censorship.

Also See: Apple to kill iPhone X, iPhone SE this year

In any case, Apple fixed the bug in iOS 11.4.1 thanks to a bug report submitted by Wardle. The update went live just a few days ago and includes a major new feature called USB Restricted Mode.

Apple recently transferred all its Chinese iCloud data to local Chinese servers on the command of the government there. This angered many folks who pointed out that this decision could potentially violate user privacy. The brand for its part says it was against the move, but decided to surrender as it was the cost of doing business in the nation.