Do not try this: Brick any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch simply by changing the date

“Every once in a while an awful bug is discovered that can crash an iPhone, render it nearly useless, or rarely, worse,” OS X Daily reports. “The worst scenario applies here, because it turns out you can completely destroy an iPhone and make it inoperable by simply changing the devices date to a specific time and date far in the past.”

“We’re going to show you how this date trick works to destroy an iPhone so that you can avoid it yourself,” OS X Daily reports. “Absolutely do not try this yourself, do not set the iPhone clock to January 1 1970 under any circumstances, it will break any iPhone. It will supposedly also brick any iPad or iPod touch as well, so do not try it on any iOS device.”

Do not try this yourself, you will ruin the iPhone. That can’t be made more clear, if you try this, you will ruin the iPhone,” OS X Daily reports. “In other words, do not try this yourself with any iPhone that you care about, unless you don’t mind sending it back to Apple for repair. Doing this will destroy the iPhone and make it inoperable. That means you won’t be able to use the iPhone at all, it will be broken. So we repeat, again, do not try this yourself. Do not try this at home. Do not try this with your iPhone. Do not try this with your friends or anyone elses iPhone. And most importantly, don’t be fooled into trying this by someone else, as there are several ridiculous pranks in the form of various claims circulating on the internet as to what happens if you set the iPhone date far into the past – don’t do it, it breaks the iPhone. This is often referred to as a bricked phone, because the iPhone becomes as useful as brick.”

“This is quite obviously a bad bug, and though it’s unlikely that average users will attempt to set their iPhone clock back to the Woodstock era, there have been various pranks and claims surfacing on the internet that try to trick people into setting their clock way back into the 1970’s. Don’t fall for it,” OS X Daily reports. “Apparently there is one reliable way to remedy this: take the iPhone to Apple for repair.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Here’s a nasty bug that Apple should obviously fix ASAP.

DO NOT TRY THIS ON ANY IOS DEVICE!!!

IF ANYONE TRIES TO GET YOU TO DO THIS ON ANY IOS DEVICE, DO NOT DO IT!!!

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “CognativeDisonance” for the heads up.]

34 Comments

  1. I’m interested how this deadly corner was programmed. Is this an out-of-bounds date? If so, why the bricking and how the bricking?

    For those watching from the future: Yes, this is how bad programming was back during the Dark Age of Computing.

    1. From Wikipedia: Unix time (also known as POSIX time or Epoch time) is a system for describing instants in time, defined as the number of seconds that have elapsed since 00:00:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), Thursday, 1 January 1970,[1][note 1] not counting leap seconds.[1][2][note 2] It is used widely in Unix-like and many other operating systems and file formats. Because it does not handle leap seconds, it is neither a linear representation of time nor a true representation of UTC.[note 3] Unix time may be checked on most Unix systems by typing date +%s on the command line.

        1. I don’t know what you are trying to say with “1455294919”. I said nothing about this being a UNIX bug. I dont think anything in the wikipedia article said it was a UNIX bug. I am not sure iOS is base on UNIX or any of it’s derivatives but I would not be surprised.

          I just thought I would share the significance of the Jan 1, 1970 date. As a programmer I can see where this could result in an unintentional bug in iOS that was never caught not tested.

          My original post was just for information for you and others re Jan 1, 1970.

          1. Both OS X and iOS are based on Darwin, an open-source UNIX developed by Apple, so there may be something in what you’re saying. Trying to set back the date under OS X 10.10.x is stopped at Jan 1, 1969, and doing so does cause my Date & Time panel to act strange – the panel goes into an inverse video mode, which freaked me out I must say. I immediately reverted to the network time server and all seems well, but this does point out what may be a vulnerability, if not a “bug”. Strange. Pre OS X, i.e. Os 6,7,8, etc., You could set the system’s date back to 1900 without ill-effect, though the only time people would do this purposefully would be to defeat some limitations of demo software, or some other such esoteric uses.

            I wonder if applications like Numbers or Excel are affected by this limitation? Anyone do a lot of date-based calculations in either program notice any limitations like this in the applications?

            I’m sure we’ll see a patch for this rather quickly.

            Cheers,

            dmx

          2. What Derek is saying is that number the result he got when he ran your “date +%s” command in the terminal. I get 1455302282. This is the number of seconds since 00:00:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), Thursday, 1 January 1970. So I ran this command 2.04527777777778 hours after Derek did. See how useful that is? Programmers do.

            Cheers,

            dmz

          3. 1) I quoted UNIX time at the moment I was replying. That was the output of the provided Terminal command. It was a direct response to the end of the previous comment. – – Note that I loathe CLIs and their associated geek factors. I took your command literally and that was the direct output. If the output is correct, it is obviously a user-hostile number, meaningful only to a UNIX geek. Please provide your own output if mine is somehow irrational.

            2) I said this was a UNIX bug, as in my, myself and I. Thank you for pointing out that this is NOT a UNIX bug, but is apparently a coding bug that does not deal with the special (my word) date of Jan 1, 1970. It will be interesting to discover why.

            3) iOS is obviously based on UNIX as it is a subset and revision of OS X. The version of UNIX by Apple is called Darwin and it qualifies as a certified form of BSD UNIX. All of Apple’s current operating systems are based on the XNU kernel. It allows porting the OS to a wide variety of hardware, in this case both RISC and CISC based CPUs.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XNU

            [To avoid confusion: I’m talking about the iOS kernel’s ability to be used on both RISC and CISC. This does NOT AT ALL translate into the software applications written for CISC CPUs to be compatible with RISC CPUS. This kills the incoherent rumor that Apple would move Macs to A Series chips. I will not further comment on this subject as I am deadly tired of it.]

  2. There are bad people out there who will use this to trash someone’s phone.

    Then again, I wonder if a crook could brick his phone to prevent access to the information? Depends on whether forensics could still access the chips, I guess.

  3. If you watched the video, you’d know that it takes quite an effort to change the time to 1 January 1970. The scroller selector for date has limited range (roughly 12 years), so you have to set your date back some twelve years at a time, then go back to the settings menu, then date/time again, then scroll back 12 more years…

    On another note, while this is unverified, several people have posted in the messages on that YouTube video that it is fairly simple to recover from this issue. You need to let battery completely die (by leaving the phone in that locked start-up mode until it dies). Once battery is dead, you should be able to do a cold boot, where the device will properly set the date.

    I’m curious if this is a confirmed fix.

    On another note, the phone in this video wasn’t completely up to date; there was an update waiting to be installed (you could see it as the author was going through system settings).

  4. So, I wonder, with iPod touches and iPads (the majority of which aren’t 3G/LTE enabled) would it be possible to spoof the web address that they use to update the time? For instance, if you could hack into the router at a big institution and then set up a decoy-WAN, could you break all of the non-3G/LTE enabled iOS devices on that network?

  5. For these sights that survive off of YouTube clicks, finding something… anything to write about a negative on the iPhone brings in money. There is no motivation to explain it away. You don’t even have to prove what you said is accurate and complete information. Just say something bad and you’ll generate some revenue. That’s all this is about.

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