Writing ‘Taiwan’ on an iPhone in China Could Crash Your Phone

By Nitish Singh / July 11, 2018

China has strict regulations in place for tech companies, which includes censorship and denial of anything that has to do with the independent state of Taiwan. Apple’s approach to abide by the guidelines in place that ask tech companies to censor the word “Taiwan” and also remove the Taiwan emoji in China was buggy on iPhone devices running iOS 11.3. The bug affected users in China only and Apple fixed the bug in iOS 11.4.1.

The issue was reported by security researcher Patrick Wardle recently. A “null” code would replace the word Taiwan or the Taiwanese flag emoji, causing a crash. While Apple has already patched the vulnerability, it is not the first time the tech giant has faced such an issue. A black dot emoji and a Telugu character were known to cause crashes in iOS devices earlier this year.

Developers at Objective See tried to decode the problem recently. A developer from the community revealed, “I'm not 100% sure why (or how this fixed it), but I'm guessing it either set the 'Country' value to 'US' so the boolean flag (at byte_1b1c9bb00) was set now to 0x1, meaning CFStringCompare() was never called or, that the calls to CFLocaleCopyCurrent()/CFLocaleGetValue() no longer returned NULL, meaning a valid string was passed to CFStringCompare(). Since I wasn't sure how many other iOS users were affected, I also reported the bug to Apple. They assigned it CVE-2018-4290 and patched it in iOS 11.4.1”.

If you are from China and still on iOS 11.3 and want to fix the issue, you need to toggle your region to US (or any country that is not China) and set it back to China. You will be able to type Taiwan into your iPhone and also use the Taiwan flag without causing any further crashes.

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