One of the beauties of iOS versus other phone operating systems is its relative security and stability versus other phone operating systems. There just aren’t a lot of hacks that can harm an iPhone unless it has been jailbroken or hacked by Israeli cyber weapons dealers. But a new exploit will permanently disable the Messages app. So prepare to be wary of any text your asshole friends and colleagues send your way.
This isn’t the first killer text for iOS. Earlier this year researchers at Cisco Talos discovered a bug that killed Messages when the device received a malicious TIFF image.
The new exploit, discovered by hacker vincedes3, is actually simpler—so simple that it’s kind of amazing it took anyone this long to find it. vincedes3 created a ridiculously complex vCard, a type of virtual business card you use to share contacts on your phone. vincedes3's vCard has 14,281 lines of code where the average vCard has just around 200-300. When Messages attempts to open the card it crashes. Restarting the phone or the app doesn’t work because, in an effort to be super helpful, Messages always tries to open the most recent text. It puts Messages into a vicious and inescapable loop.
Thankfully vincedes3 is the good kind of hacker who merely wishes to point out a major flaw in how Messages works. So the problem can be fixed by opening this link on the affected phone or by sending a text via Siri as instructed in this tweet.
The bug currently affects any device on iOS 8 through 10, and there are reports of it also affecting Android devices. So if you get a random vCard via your text app definitely think twice about opening it.