Pranksters are exploiting a bug in iOS whereby a series of a emojis are used to crash iPhones or iPads.
The prank comes in two forms. One is a simple text message that includes a waving white flag emoji, a rainbow, a zero and a hidden character known as a variation selection. The other uses the same string of characters embedded into a contacts file which is then shared by iCloud Drive.
The discovery of the bug means that pranksters have been sending the message to iPhone users.
Should you be unlucky enough to receive either, both will crash your iPhone or iPad.
There have even been reports of not only software crashing but user’s physical buttons and touchscreens crashing too.
Worst of all, there doesn’t seem to be anyway to stop the prank other than blocking the whoever it was that sent it to you.
The prank seems to affect all iOS devices, with the text message version crashing iPhones and iPads running iOS 10.1 or below, while the contact file variant affects all devices running iOS 10, including the most recent iOS 10.2.
The bug was first reported by the EverythingApplePro YouTube channel, which is known for reporting iPhone and iOS pranks.
iOS developer Vincent Desmurs who claims to have discovered the bug said the issue seemed to be caused by the way iOS handles the emojis alongside the variation selector: “What variation selector 16 (VS16) does in this case essentially is tell the device to combine the two surrounding characters into one emoji, yielding the rainbow flag.
“The text you’re copying is actually a waving white flag, VS16, zero, rainbow emoji. What I’m assuming is happening is that the phone tries to combine the waving white flag and the zero into an emoji, but this obviously can’t be done.”
This isn’t the first time a bug in iOS has been exploited to crash iPhones.
In November, a similar message that contained a three second MP4 clip was shared among iPhone users. Opening the message and playing the clip resulted in the iPhone slowly grinding to a halt and then crashing.
Apple is yet to comment on the most recent bug.
Jonathan is our Google Nexus and Android enthusiast. He is also fanatical about football which makes it all the more strange that he should support Stockport County. In addition to writing about tech, Jonathan has a passion for fitness and nutrition and has previously written for one the UK’s leading watch and horology websites.