Apple Fixed Bug in iOS 11 That Crashed Devices When Users Entered the Word 'Taiwan'

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Apple quietly fixed a bug in iOS 11 that caused some devices to crash when the word "Taiwan" was entered in a text field or the Taiwan emoji was used, according to a security researcher (via Axios).

Digita Security's Patrick Wardle outlined in a blog post how the glitch in iOS 11.3 caused instant crashes on a variety of native and third-party iPhone and iPad apps, including iMessages, Facebook, and WhatsApp.

taiwan emoji
Wardle explained that although some aspects of the bug remained unclear, his investigations found that a "null" code would prompt the crash when a "removeEmoji" operation led the system to check the device's language/region settings.

The glitch appears to be the unintended result of some lines of code that Apple added to iOS to hide the Taiwanese flag emoji on devices set to the China region. Apparently, the code worked for iOS devices set to China, but caused crashes on devices that had somehow ended up in an "unsupported region-less state." It's unclear, however, exactly how a device could end up in that state.

While Apple fixed the glitch in iOS 11.4.1 after Wardle reported it, the bug's occurrence highlights Apple's willingness to placate China when it comes to sensitive political matters. Taiwan and China have had a fractious relationship ever since the Chinese Civil War, with China long considering Taiwan to be under its sovereignty, despite Taiwan officially self-recognizing as an independent democracy wholly separate from mainland China.

Apple has made similar moves in the past to protect its important Chinese market. In July 2017, for example, Apple removed many VPN apps from the App Store in China, following regulations passed earlier in the year that require such apps to be authorized by the Chinese government.

In December 2016, the company was forced to remove both the English-language and Chinese-language versions of The New York Times app from the Chinese App Store, after being informed by the Chinese authorities that they were in violation of local regulations.

Another case of Apple censoring in China included the forced shutdown of iTunes Movies and the iBooks Store, following the release of controversial independent movie Ten Years, which won best picture prize at the Hong Kong Film Awards. The dystopian film imagines Hong Kong in 2025 with language police, mini Red Guards, radical protest and social alienation rife.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tag: China

Top Rated Comments

Kognito Avatar
33 months ago

I tried reading the article a few times but not clear about a couple of things.

1. Did some apple developer introduce this on purpose?
2. Was apple aware of this and didn’t fix it till someone reported it publicly?

The article isn't clear, I assume because it was written by someone who doesn't quite understand the technical background of this issue.

1. No, it's a bug that causes the crash, but the bug wasn't introduced on purpose. What is interesting is that it prompted investigation into why this would cause a crash - baring in mind that most of the world's iPhone users have been using the Taiwanese flag emoji without issue. The investigation revealed that Apple had introduced code to remove the emoji that would run only if your region was set to China - but obviously hadn't tested it properly, hence the crash. The intended effect was to just silently remove the Taiwan Emoji flag from the system.

2. No, I doubt they were aware of this. The fact that it only applied to Chinese users likely allowed this bug to slip by unnoticed by the folks in CA. Apple likely wouldn't want this publicised either, it looks bad on them from those outside China and those within China probably couldn't care any less.

Sad though, that Apple is so willing to placate the PRoC government when they act quite the opposite elsewhere in the world. I guess money talks.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sunapple Avatar
33 months ago
It’s amazing how many things do work when you think about it. :confused:
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nerdAFK Avatar
33 months ago
Time cook (licking Chinese government's ass): "Oopsy..."
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
autrefois Avatar
33 months ago
Very Orwellian. We won't even let you use the word Taiwan, it's a thoughtcrime.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Prabas Avatar
33 months ago
Taiwan #1!
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
timmyh Avatar
33 months ago

The article isn't clear, I assume because it was written by someone who doesn't understand the technical background of this issue.

1. No, it's a bug that causes the crash, but the bug wasn't introduced on purpose. What is interesting is that it prompted investigation into why this would cause a crash - baring in mind that most of the world's iPhone users have been using the Taiwanese flag emoji without issue. The investigation revealed that Apple had introduced code to remove the emoji that would run only if your region was set to China - but obviously hadn't tested it properly, hence the crash. The intended effect was to just silently remove the Taiwan Emoji flag from the system.

Sorry you misunderstood my wording here. To say that the glitch was of Apple’s own making, wasn’t to imply that they introduced it ‘on purpose’. Rather, the code that Apple added to silently remove the emoji turned out to be cause of the bug.

As mentioned, as soon as the researcher pointed out the issue, Apple corrected it, so that now it redacts the Taiwan emoji as originally intended.

I've changed the wording for clarification.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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