Smartphone

The security expert found a bug that disconnects iPhones with location in China when trying to enter the word “Taiwan”

As the specialist decided, this error is due to Apple’s attempt to “appease” the Chinese government.

Photos of ZDNet

Security expert Patrick Wardle discovered in iOS a bug that caused Apple’s smartphones to be disconnected when trying to enter the word “Taiwan” or send emoji with a Taiwanese flag.

Wardle learned about the vulnerability from his friend from Taiwan, who complained to him of China’s attempts to crack her iPhone. The girl said that every time she tries to write the word “Taiwan”, sends or receives emoji with a flag, the phone turns off.

However, the girl was mistaken, believes Wardle. In fact, the shutdown was due to a random error that occurred when Apple tried to “appease” the Chinese government.

Roughly speaking, Apple has added some code to iOS so that phones in China do not show the Taiwan flag. And there was an error in this code.

Patrick Wardle
security expert

In early 2017, iOS introduced a feature that supports Chinese censorship. If you set the location settings in China, emoji with the Taiwan flag will disappear from the library, and will be displayed as an “absent” emoji in the text. The fact is that the Chinese authorities consider Taiwan part of their country without a legitimate independent government. As noted by Wired, this is only part of what Apple has done “for the Chinese dictatorship” – the company also transfers user data from China to local servers, and also removes VPN services from the local App Store.

However, Wardle found that in some cases, the bug in the Taiwanese censorship code was perceived as incorrect input of data instead of issuing a message about the missing emoji. This caused a complete breakdown of the phones, which hackers call a network attack, which allows anyone to hack vulnerable devices using certain commands.

Wardle does not know how many devices were affected due to an error, and what exactly triggered a breakdown on some devices. However, he is sure that this is due to the location and language settings of the smartphone.

If Apple did not try to meet the Chinese government, this mistake would never have arisen. […] They say, “We will never spy on users.” But at the request of China they are building censorship in their devices and do not talk about it. I would use the term hypocrisy.

Patrick Wardle
security expert

The expert warned Apple about the problem in mid-June. The day before the company issued a statement on the update of security features in iOS 11.4.1, in which it said that memory management was improved to correct a denial-of-service failure. The company also noted Wardle and thanked him for discovering the problem.

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