Telegu Unicode spreading via trolls on Twitter to crash Apple devices

Three days ago the Telegu Unicode was wreaking havoc on iMessage, Whatsapp and other messaging platforms that the iPhone features. Now, it’s spread to Twitter

There’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. 

What are being termed as the ‘killer symbols’ are two Telegu characters, that when they appear on an apple device, cause the iPhone iOS 11.2.5 and Mac apps to crash. Even Apple Watches haven’t been spared.

In the case of most bugs, if you know what’s causing the issue, the user can avoid it. But, in the case of the Telegu characters, a south Indian language, avoiding the symbols alone won’t solve your problem. 

There are trolls actively using this bug as ammunition to instantaneously crash apps on Apple devices. All it takes is an @ reply or those characters to be featured in someone’s twitter handle when they get in touch. Then it’s bye-bye for good.

Once the app crashes, it fails to re-open because those characters continue to appear in your notifications. Some sites have recommended that users should wait for Springboard, the launcher aka home screen application, to restart otherwise the full reboot will put the device into a boot loop. It’s just going to be one restart after another without reprieve.

In a lot of cases, the user has to run a complete device firmware upgrade (DFU). This allows the device to be restored from any state.

The forming trend

ChaiOS, the bug that would cause iMessage to crash on iOS and Mac devices with just one link, was only fixed in 2018 despite being around since 2015. It wasn’t that big an epidemic because users had to actively click on the link for it to effect their device. On the other hand, with the Telegu Unicode, all that trolls have to do is send a message that contains those characters. 

iOS devices used to freeze if a specific video was played on Safari during the autumn of 2016. Right before the new year, a date bug wreaked havoc across iPhones by resetting the devices that had the latest software.

Apple devices have been surprisingly vulnerable for a while now and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Fortunately, in this case, reports say that the Telegu Unicode bug shouldn’t survive for much longer. It’s already been addressed in the latest beta software, for both iPhones as well as Macs. 

Meanwhile, you’re either going to need a non-Apple device or a DFU to fix things, if you’ve become the target of the Telegu characters. 

Beware though, the bug may go beyond the two characters that are in the spotlight right now. 

Prabhjote Gill is the Senior Journalist at Business Insider India. She covering everything space, tech and defence at Business Insider India. She is also in-charge of allocating stories to junior writers.