Random string of Arabic characters can crash nearly any Mac, iPhone or iPad

“A strange but simple bug in an essential part of Apple’s desktop and mobile operating systems is crashing computers, phones, and tablets across the internet, as Windows and Firefox users, both immune, repost it for kicks,” John Herrman reports for BuzzFeed. “It’s shown up on Reddit, 4Chan, YouTube, and Twitter, where it caused temporary chaos, and has already been banned from Facebook. More damaging, and mostly invisible, is its potential spread via text, sending this string in iMessage in iOS 6 causes a crash that can leave phones severely disabled, and, for most users, prompt a trip to the genius bar.”

A “string of Arabic characters, which has no meaning, exploits a problem with Apple’s Core Text rendering engine, which is the part of its operating system software that draws, smooths, and lays out text.” Herrman reports. “To fix the bug users will have to update their operating systems, either in a small increment or to iOS 7 or the next version of OS X, Mavericks, neither of which have been released to the public but both of which are protected from the problem… For now, the best recourse for Mac users is to install Firefox and keep an eye out for incoming system updates.”

This random string of Arabic characters can crash Apple's Core Text rendering engine
This random string of Arabic characters can crash Apple’s Core Text rendering engine

 

MacDailyNews Note: In fact, an even shorter string of just the first few of the Arabic characters shown above can crash Safari 6.1 (as tested in OS X 10.8.4).

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Unicode of Death.

37 Comments

  1. Anybody know what those letters spell? The crash could be Apple’s secretive anti-evil-dooer software installed preventing ‘code’ words from starting a WMD of DOOOOOMMMMM!

      1. God told us not to speak his name in vain. Uh oh. 😉

        Actually, the post says the characters are meaningless and ‘random’.

        I personally want to see an real demonstration of this bug. Stuff like this frequently turns out to be some troll’s invented BS used for FUD purposes. Therefore, I am in-search-of and will report back below if I find anything useful.

  2. Okay… Is this problem crashing the victim’s Mac, or just Safari? Because those are two very different things. I’d be stunned if this problem brought down the entire computer.

    ——RM

        1. Have you tried asking a friend to send you a text message with the text in? I am now unable to open my message app because of this.
          iPhone 5 iOS 6.1.4
          keenly awaiting a solution to undo this.
          D

          1. I know what u mean, but its possible to delete it if the guy who sent the message to u can send another normal message, then leave that message(Dont open it). And then ask another friend if he can send a message to u, then click on the message when its incoming so u are in the converstaion between u and him, then press back button so u can delete all messages from the guy who sent you the arabic text.

            I hope u understand my bad english 😛

          2. Bullet to my head for posting the naughty characters here:
            q= – – – (0_o)

            I’ve been researching this. There are two strategies, depending upon whether the messed up messages app is Apple’s or not. I’m going to suggest trying solutions in this order:

            A) Totally shut down your iPhone (hold down the lock button until the shutdown starts), then boot it again (click the lock button).

            A) Reboot your iPhone:
            Totally shut down your iPhone (hold down the lock button until the shutdown starts), then boot it again (click the lock button to start the boot). The consensus I’m reading is that this will clear any app’s residual cache.

            Try your message app again. If it is still locking up, and it is NOT Apple’s ‘Messages’ app (which cannot be deleted) then try this:

            B) Use iTunes (or the iPhone) to ‘Remove’ the locked up app. Then inside of iTunes under your iPhones ‘Apps’, ‘Install’ the app again.

            Removal of any app clears out all the files associated with the app, including its cache. The app works again. I’ve done this many times with apps that have installed oddly and consistently crash. Remove then install typically makes them entirely happy.

            Post in this thread if neither of these methods works and I’ll dig around for more solutions.

            :-Derek

          1. My late father was born in Syria and spoke Arabic. And my Mom’s family too came from Syria. But they were Jews and did not consider themselves Arabs.

            As to Job’s heritage, according to the “Steve Jobs” biography, he considered his biological heritage immaterial, and it played no role in his life.

  3. SHENANIGANS

    I have the text. I have the web page URL with the text. I’ve tested it in Terminal. I’ve tested it in Safari. I’ve tested it in Chromium (not Chrome). NOTHING HAPPENED.

    My system = OS X 10.7.5, Safari 6.0.5, Chromium 27.0.1453.116 (just about to update it now). No crash. Not error. No nothing. Therefore, so far: SHENANIGANS.

    I have NOT tested the text in iOS. Any other testers, please report.

    1. My Mac security interest group has been bashing away at this on various platforms and browsers. We have focused in on this being ONLY a problem on:

      OS X 10.8.x
      iOS 6.x

      I have been entirely unable to recreate the problem on 10.7.5. I have reports that 10.6.8 are not affected as well. I have a lot of reports that 10.8.4 is affected. 10.8.5 and 10.9 have no reports of being affected.

      Meanwhile, I have reports that iOS 5 is not affected. I personally blew up every web browser I have for 6.1.3, without exception. There are no reports of iOS 7 being affected.

      IOW: There is indeed a lot of bogus information out there about this problem. But it is for reelz on OS X 10.8 and iOS 6, only.

      And my profound apologies for posting the offending characters here yesterday. 😥

  4. Have fun with friends sending a SMS to their iPhone and see iOS to crash using latest know iOS bug!

    Using this Android App, when you send the SMS attack to any iPhone, in addition to crash for 15 seconds (black or apple screen), the messages app hangs and can no longer be opened until, using this app, you decide for send the rescue SMS and follow any simple instructions.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=br.com.arlsoft.iphonecrash

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