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Odd Mountain Lion Crashing Bug Brings Down Nearly Any App

One of the fastest-spreading stories of the weekend has been a strange OS X Mountain Lion bug that can crash almost any Mac app running any version of OS X 10.8, reported on Open Radar.

The initial bug report stated that typing 'File:///' (without the quotes) into almost any app causes the app to crash.

Follow-up testing has shown that the final character needn't be a forward-slash, with almost any character after 'File://' triggering the bug. The issue is also speed-dependent: leaving a brief pause between typing // and the next character will prevent the crash from occurring.

More embarrassingly still for Apple, filing a crash report causes both Crash Reporter and the Console apps to crash. The Console crash can only be cured by running a terminal command:

sudo sed -i -e 's@File:///@F i l e : / / /@g' /var/log/system.log

The Next Web has a detailed analysis of the issue, noting that it is related to Apple's Data Detectors feature for automatically recognizing dates, locations and other information in text for addition to Address Book or Calendar entries.

While it is rather surprising that the issue took so long to receive publicity, Apple is now likely to include a fix for the problem sooner rather than later. It is, however, unknown whether Apple will squeeze a fix into the upcoming OS X 10.8.3 that has been in developer testing for over two months.

Top Rated Comments

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79 months ago

More embarrassingly still for Apple, filing a crash report causes both Crash Reporter and the Console apps to crash.

Laughed way more than I should have.
Rating: 37 Votes
79 months ago
Ugh. I just tried to contact an Apple representative about this, and as soon as I described the problem, they hung up on me. This bug goes deep, man.
Rating: 25 Votes
79 months ago
Not a bug, it is a feature! :D
Rating: 14 Votes
79 months ago
Wow, amazing bug. So big brother is watching, logging, analyzing. You could just be in the middle of typ
Rating: 11 Votes
79 months ago
You're typing it wrong.
Rating: 10 Votes
79 months ago
Yeah, this is SO utterly embarrassing. Most of the world is required to type 'file:/*' into most apps these days. Their stock is going to plummet :(
Rating: 9 Votes
79 months ago

I suppose it's "neat", but keep in mind in that this kind of core system vulnerability could potentially be exploited to put malware everywhere.

And that, my friend, is utter nonsense.

There is no vulnerability. There is an embarrassing bug that causes an exception to be thrown, which is not handled (because it shouldn't have been thrown), and uncaught exceptions stop the application from running. This would be inconvenient if it happened in a common situation, but Mountain Lion has been out for many months without anyone noticing, so nobody is inconvenienced. But importantly, because the effect of the bug is to stop the application from running, it is not something that can be exploited for malware.

I know. It's just rare that a bug is so incredibly easy to produce like this. It makes me wonder how they missed it... Someone needs to update Apple unit tests. :p

"Easy to reproduce" doesn't mean "easy to find". This should have been found in a code review (someone checked that a URL is a "file url" by checking that it starts with the characters "file://" which is obvious nonsense - "File://" or "fIlE://" is perfectly legal), but anybody who is clever enough to write a unit test for the "File" case would also have been clever enough to get the code right in the first place.
Rating: 8 Votes
79 months ago
3 "/"s. Half Life 3 Confirmed
Rating: 8 Votes
79 months ago

"Doctor, doctor, it hurts when I stab my eye with a spoon".
"Don't do it then. ".

This hasn't crashed any Mac except those who read the article and had to try it out.

Well, sure... but I can't help but wonder what the comments would look like if the article was "Bug found that instantly crashes any Windows 8 App". We'd all be laughing at how bad Microsoft QC is and "that's why I have a Mac" and how glad we were that we weren't "at risk" and all that jazz.

Instead we're all here saying "oh, no big deal" and "Hey cool, it works on my machine too!"
Rating: 7 Votes
79 months ago
Lights out.

Well, this explains last night's power outage at the Superdome.
Someone typed "File:///" last night. ;)
Rating: 6 Votes

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