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iOS 10.3 Fixes Exploit That Caused iPhones to Repeatedly Dial 911

iOS 10.3, released earlier this week, fixes a major vulnerability that could cause iPhones to repeatedly dial 911, reports The Wall Street Journal. In the United States, 911 is an emergency telephone number that summons police, fire, and EMS services.

The 911 security flaw surfaced in October after an 18-year-old iOS developer in Arizona discovered and published code that would cause an iPhone to dial 911 over and over again. The teenager was arrested after the 911 system in Surprise, Arizona was overwhelmed with more than 100 hang-up calls in just minutes.


Because the code was published online, thousands of accidental 911 calls were placed across the United States, demonstrating an effective cyberattack method that could severely disrupt emergency services.

The code exploited an iPhone feature that allows users to click on a phone number in a text message or on a webpage and immediately dial that number. With the iOS 10.3 update, iPhones always require secondary confirmation before automatically calling a number using that method.
Apple says the update supersedes that capability and now requires users to always press a second confirmation before initiating a call.

Apple says it initially worked with app developers to fix the vulnerability, and this update will now prevent it from happening even on apps that hadn't already fixed the issue.
iOS 10.3, which introduces features like Find My AirPods and a new Apple Filesystem, also includes dozens of major security fixes. Another major iOS 10.3 bug fix, which could result in endless Safari pop-ups that "locked" the Safari app, was outlined earlier this week.

Related Roundup: iOS 10


Top Rated Comments

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4 weeks ago
I'd feel much more comfortable with a phone that explodes.
Well, if you have both an iPhone and a Galaxy Note 7, the iPhone can call the police for you when the Note explodes.
Rating: 9 Votes
4 weeks ago

It would be really nice if these articles could offer more accurate regional details.

Enhanced 911 is currently deployed in most metropolitan areas in the United States, Canada, and Mexico as well as all of the Cayman Islands. Also, Davao City in the Philippines.


This site is for news and rumors about Apple-related products and services. It's not Wikipedia.
Rating: 5 Votes
4 weeks ago
The article is unclear, was he arrested for publishing the vulnerability or did he exploit it himself to DoS the 911 system?
Rating: 4 Votes
4 weeks ago

That's what I want to know too, my iPhone 6 is running fine on iOS 9.3.5, I doubt jumping to 10 will do anything but slow it down and create bugs, of course, I will be happy to be told otherwise.

I think it's a superb idea to stay with an outdated OS, leaving yourself wide open to security exploits and vulnerable... I'd advise ANYONE to do this, and whilst you're about it, go and open your front door, leave it wide open when you go to bed, and then I would post ALL your personal and financial details, website & app logins to pastebin and put them on Twitter - may as well go all out. Next, install "TeamViewer" and call any "Indian Microsoft agents" you can find by Googling that phrase, and give them your TeamViewer ID, then naively hope they're honest and won't ruin your computer.

Yes, security updates and stability patches are for mugs - be scared and cautious and stay out of date, that's the spirit, and I am sure Steve Gibson of GRC.com will advise you of the same.

I won't add the redundant "sarcasm" tag, I think you got the point.


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Rating: 4 Votes
4 weeks ago

There was a very unfortunate case recently in the Dallas area where a child died when 911 couldn't be reached due to massive #'s of calls being made in to the system and it couldn't keep up. Hold times for 911 response were at times as much as 45 mim... Related?

There's a vulnerability in Android systems that allows unprivileged apps to spoof the cellular ID that the phone uses to identify itself on the LTE network, plus Android lets those apps make phone calls. And there's a vulnerability in LTE systems where someone can spoof a bunch of random cell IDs with fake security keys that the carrier won't check IFF they're requesting a 911 call; in fact, that phone doesn't even need to be a subscriber to that carrier. And the 911 systems have no way of telling which calls are legitimate. So it could be that.

The worst part? Even if they fix this in Android,
1. Attackers can still get away with using their own devices, and any kind of fix for this on the LTE network would require phones to be updated so they can make legit 911 calls...
2. Nobody updates their Android phones.
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It would be really nice if these articles could offer more accurate regional details. There seems to be a huge focus on the US, maybe because the publication is based out of the US? Remember that you are reaching a global audience.

Enhanced 911 is currently deployed in most metropolitan areas in the United States, Canada, and Mexico as well as all of the Cayman Islands. Also, Davao City in the Philippines.

Knowing that this 911 bug happened elsewhere, not just the US, broadens how many people and countries that it may have impacted.

The article should really say that this bug has nothing to do with 911 and is just an exploit to force the iPhone to call any number, regardless of your service provider.
Rating: 4 Votes
4 weeks ago

I read about this a while ago. To be clear, this vulnerability didn't just affect 911 calls. You could force the iPhone to make a call to any number.

Nice. So he didn't have to attack critical emergency services, he just chose to do so?

"To show the seriousness" he aimed at 911. Basically, "let me hurt innocent people so you understand this could seriously hurt innocent people".

Thinking about the connection between actions and consequence is what jail is for, after all...
Rating: 3 Votes
4 weeks ago
Operator: "Hello, 911?"
Siri: "*pause* Let me find that for you"
Operator: "What?"
Siri: "Finding, please wait".
Rating: 2 Votes
4 weeks ago

I'm on 10.2.1 and always get the confirmation alert when tapping a phone number in Safari.

I believe that's when it's properly implemented which has been the case throughout iOS for the most part. It seems that prior to iOS 10.3 there was a way to tweak that in some circumstances to bypass it, which is likely what was was abused and what was fixed.
Rating: 2 Votes
4 weeks ago

I have had MAJOR issues with the music app after updating to 10.3. The app opens just fine, but when clicking on any of the tabs at the bottom, the entire phone crashes. I have downloaded Spotify as a result so that I can at least listen to some music. Can't listen to Apple Radio or my own music. I have soft reset the phone and restored from backup and nothing corrects this issue I am experiencing after updating to 10.3.

Do a clean install then move your information back to the device. When you restore from a backup that has the problem, you may not fix the problem.

About the article, that dumb kid should be in jail. He knew what the code did and used it anyway. Throw the book at him and set an example.
Rating: 2 Votes
4 weeks ago

How about the exploit where anytime "17" or "18" is mentioned to Siri such as "set a timer for 17 minutes" it'll dial emergency number?

What? Siri just says the timer for 17 (or 18) minutes and starts it. No emergency numbers involved or anything even remotely close to that.
Rating: 1 Votes

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