Now-fixed Apple code crashed iOS devices when users typed 'Taiwan'

Posted:
in iPhone
A blog post on Tuesday illustrates the sometimes inadvertent ill effects of modifying or adding code to a major operating system for no other purpose than to placate a certain market's government. Apple did just that when it removed the Taiwan flag emoji from circulation in China.

Taiwan iOS
Source: Patrick Wardle


Patrick Wardle, chief research officer of Digita Security, discussed the issue that caused certain iOS devices to crash in a lengthy and somewhat technical post to his personal blog, Objective-See.

As Wardle explains, iOS 11.3 and below contained a bug that for some iPhone and iPad users resulted in constant crashes when the word "Taiwan" was entered in both first- and third-party app text fields.

The remote flaw would also trigger a crash event when attempting to display the Taiwanese flag emoji on certain devices. The process was repeatable in iMessage, Facebook and WhatsApp.

Apple patched the bug in iOS 11.4.1, citing a bug report filed by Wardle earlier this year.

Certain aspects of the bug are unclear, but Wardle narrowed the negative effect down to a "null" pointer dereference. In particular, the problem presented itself when a removeEmoji operation led to a system instruction that checked a device's region settings. An ensuing function crashed under certain conditions related to Chinese region settings.

As noted by Emojipedia, iOS hides the Taiwanese flag on devices set to the China region. This process includes expunging the emoji from both the keyboard and rendered data like incoming text messages.

While the code worked for Chinese iPhones, it caused trouble for some iOS devices set to other regions, or more accurately an "unsupported region-less state."

The ordeal underscores the lengths to which Apple and other companies will go to appease China's government. China and Taiwan have a long and contentious relationship that dates back to well before the Chinese Civil War. Taiwan views itself as a sovereign state called the Republic of China, while the People's Republic of China (mainland China) considers Taiwan part of its territory and sensitive to issues regarding the island's identity.

China (the People's Republic of China) is a vital market for Apple. Although the company publicly touts a strong stance on against censorship and government snooping, it has played nice with the Chinese government's oft-bemoaned laws.

Last year, for example, Apple caught flak for pulling the NYT app from the Chinese App Store, a move that was followed by the removal of certain VPN apps in compliance with Chinese regulations.

Most recently, the company transferred Chinese iCloud data and cryptographic keys to local servers run by Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Co. Ltd., a decision decried by privacy advocates. For its part, Apple says it advocated against iCloud being subject to China's cyber laws, but chalked up compliance as a cost of doing business in the country.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 3,785member
    Not reeeaaaalllly feeling the sympathy for them on this one. 
    adm1muthuk_vanalingamlamboaudi4
  • Reply 2 of 23
    asciiascii Posts: 5,693member
    If the Chinese people ever overthrow the CCP and establish a democracy, what are they going to think of the American companies who helped censor them when the communists were in power? Would Apple ever sell an iPhone there again?
    lamboaudi4
  • Reply 3 of 23
    jcallowsjcallows Posts: 142member
    ah yes, programming 101:  never dereference a null pointer
    dewme
  • Reply 4 of 23
    ascii said:
    If the Chinese people ever overthrow the CCP and establish a democracy, what are they going to think of the American companies who helped censor them when the communists were in power? Would Apple ever sell an iPhone there again?
    History has an unfortunately short memory.  Most Americans or citizens of other western countries don't have a moral objection to buying products from VW, BMW, Hugo Boss, Siemens, or other multinational companies who were 100% complicit in the Holocaust by benefiting form slave labor provided by concentration camps or even outright support of the 3rd Reich.  There are lots of other companies who benefitted from the war effort in Germany (government contracts and reduction of comeptition) that weren't so culpable as well, but I guess there is no need to go further with the point.  So, I would not expect that most Chinese consumers would boycott American products if communism were ever to fall in China. 
    edited July 11 mike1zoetmbmacseekerlamboaudi4jony0
  • Reply 5 of 23
    nunzynunzy Posts: 414member
    Apple plays ball with the Chicomms because they can make more money that way.  what is good for Wall Street is good for America..
  • Reply 6 of 23
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,720member
    nunzy said:
    Apple plays ball with the Chicomms because they can make more money that way.  what is good for Wall Street is good for America..
    Wall Street isn't good for America.

    Also, AI, you've another typo: "...the company publicly touts a strong stance on against censorship..."

    "On" or "against". Pick one.
    nunzyBozoClown
  • Reply 7 of 23
    ivanhivanh Posts: 165member
    "Most recently, the company {Apple Inc} transferred Chinese iCloud data and {Apple's} cryptographic keys to local servers run by Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Co. Ltd."  President Trump will like to confirm from Mr Tim Cook, "How is the national security not being compromised?"
  • Reply 8 of 23
    Love Apple. But This is the kind of hypocrisy that pisses me off about Apple. They make such a strong stand on so many important issues. The environment, gay rights, immigration and privacy. But then they throw those principals right out the window and bend over for China every time. 
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 9 of 23
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,346member
    ascii said:
    If the Chinese people ever overthrow the CCP and establish a democracy, what are they going to think of the American companies who helped censor them when the communists were in power? Would Apple ever sell an iPhone there again?
    Why would they overthrow their government? The people there largely don’t know of any other lifestyle. If they experienced freedom and protected rights and then had them removed or violated, THEN they’d know the difference.
  • Reply 10 of 23
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 1,677member
    nunzy said:
    Apple plays ball with the Chicomms because they can make more money that way.  what is good for Wall Street is good for America..
    Does US really have the right to set moral standards? During WWII, Japan invaded China for more than eight years. Tens of millions of Chinese died. Chinese economy collapsed. Yet right after WWII, US become an ally to Japan despite the fact that Japan has never compensated the astronomical sufferings of Chinese people. And US conveniently blocked China and Chinese people for thirty years until 1979. 
    nunzy
  • Reply 11 of 23
    nunzynunzy Posts: 414member
    Love Apple. But This is the kind of hypocrisy that pisses me off about Apple. They make such a strong stand on so many important issues. The environment, gay rights, immigration and privacy. But then they throw those principals right out the window and bend over for China every time. 
     Pushing those things in China would be a lousy method to increase the profits flowing out of China.  pushing those things in other countries increase the profits from those countries. No hypocrisy is involved. Apple does what it does for the same reason everywhere and every time. More profits for Wall Street is all they care about.

    Apple is not some sort of do-gooder organization. Apple is a giant corporation which makes giant profits. Get real.

    edited July 11
  • Reply 12 of 23
    tylerdtylerd Posts: 27member
    mbenz1962 said:
    ascii said:
    If the Chinese people ever overthrow the CCP and establish a democracy, what are they going to think of the American companies who helped censor them when the communists were in power? Would Apple ever sell an iPhone there again?
    History has an unfortunately short memory.  Most Americans or citizens of other western countries don't have a moral objection to buying products from VW, BMW, Hugo Boss, Siemens, or other multinational companies who were 100% complicit in the Holocaust by benefiting form slave labor provided by concentration camps or even outright support of the 3rd Reich.  There are lots of other companies who benefitted from the war effort in Germany (government contracts and reduction of comeptition) that weren't so culpable as well, but I guess there is no need to go further with the point.  So, I would not expect that most Chinese consumers would boycott American products if communism were ever to fall in China. 
    While I understand your point, it's unfair to compare complying to censorship laws to supporting (or being complicit to) Nazism. 

    Apple obeys the laws in all of the countries in which it operates. U.S. laws, Chinese laws, Korean laws, EU laws, and on and on. They operate exactly the same as Samsung, Microsoft, and other tech giants (these others do not get the same publicity, but look for the NYT app on an Android phone while in China). These companies may not like some of the laws, however they are compelled to abide by them. 

    There are some exceptions. Facebook does not operate there but this is because China maintains control over social media and has blocked them. FB has no say in the matter. Google is another case and is more complicated, but they have chosen not to operate (mostly) in China due to the laws there. There's more to their story, but that's the gist. 

    This all comes down to a simple mantra: if you wish to operate in any country you must obey the laws of that country or face the penalties. 
    edited July 11
  • Reply 13 of 23
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,238member
    tzeshan said:
    Does US really have the right to set moral standards? During WWII, Japan invaded China for more than eight years. Tens of millions of Chinese died. Chinese economy collapsed.
    You’re welcome for saving China from Japan, by the way. And for paying to rebuild it. I don’t recall us being obligated to do either thing in any capacity, but you’re welcome.

    Sincerely,
    the US

    P.S. Stop fucking stealing our IP.

    edited July 11 SpamSandwichmacseeker
  • Reply 14 of 23
    joogabahjoogabah Posts: 105member
    tzeshan said:
    Does US really have the right to set moral standards? During WWII, Japan invaded China for more than eight years. Tens of millions of Chinese died. Chinese economy collapsed.
    You’re welcome for saving China from Japan, by the way. And for paying to rebuild it. I don’t recall us being obligated to do either thing in any capacity, but you’re welcome.

    Sincerely,
    the US

    P.S. Stop fucking stealing our IP.

    "our IP"?  How is it yours?
  • Reply 15 of 23
    jblongzjblongz Posts: 140member
    No Wonder!
  • Reply 16 of 23
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,238member
    joogabah said:
    "our IP"?  How is it yours?
    How is the intellectual property of the people of a nation owned by the people of said nation? That’s your question?
    macseeker
  • Reply 17 of 23
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,622member
    joogabah said:

    P.S. Stop fucking stealing our IP.

    "our IP"?  How is it yours?
    I don't see anything wrong with that part of his statement because the technology is in a large part a result of grants funded by the US government to US universities. I don't know about Tallest but I pay US federal income taxes so collectively much of the US IP was originally made possible by "our" contributions.
  • Reply 18 of 23
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 1,677member
    volcan said:
    joogabah said:

    P.S. Stop fucking stealing our IP.

    "our IP"?  How is it yours?
    I don't see anything wrong with that part of his statement because the technology is in a large part a result of grants funded by the US government to US universities. I don't know about Tallest but I pay US federal income taxes so collectively much of the US IP was originally made possible by "our" contributions.
    This is generalization of patents. 
  • Reply 19 of 23
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,622member
    tzeshan said:
    volcan said:
    joogabah said:

    P.S. Stop fucking stealing our IP.

    "our IP"?  How is it yours?
    I don't see anything wrong with that part of his statement because the technology is in a large part a result of grants funded by the US government to US universities. I don't know about Tallest but I pay US federal income taxes so collectively much of the US IP was originally made possible by "our" contributions.
    This is generalization of patents. 
    According to the poster I replied to, he had an exception to the usage/definition of the word "our" in the original comment. I don't. My remarks have very little to do with actual patent law but more a philosophy of inclusiveness of the American effort to protect what we paid for. People who steal anything have no regard for law, international or domestic. 

    In some part I blame the US universities because they are greedy for tuition dollars from foreign students especially from China and they teach them the advanced technology the US has and then they return to their country only to use it against us.
    macseeker
  • Reply 20 of 23
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 1,677member
    volcan said:
    tzeshan said:
    volcan said:
    joogabah said:

    P.S. Stop fucking stealing our IP.

    "our IP"?  How is it yours?
    I don't see anything wrong with that part of his statement because the technology is in a large part a result of grants funded by the US government to US universities. I don't know about Tallest but I pay US federal income taxes so collectively much of the US IP was originally made possible by "our" contributions.
    This is generalization of patents. 
    According to the poster I replied to, he had an exception to the usage/definition of the word "our" in the original comment. I don't. My remarks have very little to do with actual patent law but more a philosophy of inclusiveness of the American effort to protect what we paid for. People who steal anything have no regard for law, international or domestic. 

    In some part I blame the US universities because they are greedy for tuition dollars from foreign students especially from China and they teach them the advanced technology the US has and then they return to their country only to use it against us.
    You are an ultra right wing white American man.  Do I guess right completely? Very selfish with no more values. What you uphold is not moral at all. Read what Jesus said. You are not a real Christian. 
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