PSA: New Character Bug in Messages Causing iOS Devices to Crash [Updated]

There appears to be a new character-linked bug in Messages, Mail, and other apps that can cause the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch to crash when receiving a specific string of characters.

capturetheflagcrashbug

Image from Twitter

In this particular case, the character string involves the Italian flag emoji along with characters in the Sindhi language, and it appears the system crash happens when an incoming notification is received with the problem-causing characters.

Based on information shared on Reddit, the character string began circulating on Telegram, but has also been found on Twitter.

These kind of device-crashing character bugs surface every so often and sometimes become widespread, leading to a significant number of people ending up with a malfunctioning iPhone, iPad, or Mac. In 2018, for example, a character string in the Telugu language circulated around the internet, crashing thousands of devices before Apple addressed the problem in an iOS update.

There is often no way to prevent these characters from causing crashes and freezes when received from a malicious person, and crashes caused through notifications often cause operating system re-springs and in some cases, a need to restore a device in DFU mode.

MacRumors readers should be aware that such a bug is circulating, and for those who are particularly concerned, as this bug appears to impact notifications, turning off notifications may mitigate the effects. Apple typically fixes these character bugs within a few days to a week.

Update: According to MacRumors reader Adam, who tested the bug on a device running iOS 13.4.5, the issue is fixed in the second beta of that update.

Top Rated Comments

Joniz Avatar
8 months ago


It's amazing how anyone even finds these sort of things to begin with. Are there people literally typing all sorts of crap in messages to see what sticks?

What else you got to do these days?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ArtOfWarfare Avatar
8 months ago
How hard can it possibly be to just have something like:

try {
renderText();
} catch (Exception e) {
renderUnprintable();
reportToApple(e);
}


I know, that's Java and Apple would actually use Swift, but still, how hard can it possibly be to just not let the exception through?
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Timothy Leo Crowley Avatar
8 months ago


wow, lots of critical bugs coming out of Cupertino lately. Mail security bug and now this.

Bugs like this happen to all complex systems. Always have, always will. Apple finds and fixes them fast.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
globalist Avatar
8 months ago
It's amazing how anyone even finds these sort of things to begin with. Are there people literally typing all sorts of crap in messages to see what sticks?
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
riverfreak Avatar
8 months ago
I really wish Apple would treat your contact list as a whitelist and treat everything else as spam, both calls and messages. Heck, I’d even extend that to email, too.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
btrach144 Avatar
8 months ago
wow, lots of critical bugs coming out of Cupertino lately. Mail security bug and now this.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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