By Mikey Campbell
Tuesday, July 10, 2018, 9:57 p.m. PT (12:57 a.m. ET)
A blog post on Tuesday illustrates the sometimes unnoticed negative effects of modifying or adding code to an important operating system for the sole purpose of placating the government of a given market. Apple did exactly that when it eliminated the emoji of the Taiwan flag from circulation in China.
Source: Patrick Wardle
Patrick Wardle, head of research at Digita Security, discussed the problem causing certain iOS devices to crash into a long and somewhat technical post on his personal blog, Objective-See .
According to Wardle explains, iOS 11.3 and following contained an error that for some users of iPhone and iPad caused constant blockages when the word "Taiwan" was entered in the text fields of the application, both the first and the third parties.
The remote error would also trigger a blocking event when trying to display the emoji of the Taiwanese flag on certain devices. The process was repeatable in iMessage, Facebook and WhatsApp.
Apple patched the bug in iOS 11.4.1, citing an error report presented by Wardle earlier this year.
Certain aspects of the error are unclear, but Wardle reduced the negative effect to a "zero" pointer dereference. In particular, the problem arose when an operation
removeEmoji led to a system instruction verifying the regional configuration of a device. A subsequent function collapsed under certain conditions related to the configuration of the Chinese region.
As observed by Emojipedia iOS hides the flag of Taiwan on devices installed in the region of China. This process includes removing emoji from the keyboard and rendered data, such as incoming text messages.
While the code worked for Chinese iPhones, it caused problems for some iOS devices established in other regions, or more accurately, a "state without regional support".
The ordeal underlines the length of time Apple and other companies go to appease the Chinese government. China and Taiwan have a long and conflicting relationship dating back to long before the Chinese Civil War. Taiwan considers itself as a sovereign state called the Republic of China, while the People's Republic of China (mainland China) considers Taiwan as part of its territory and sensitive to issues related to the identity of the island.
China (the People's Republic of China) is a vital market for Apple. Although the company publicly promotes a firm stance against government censorship and espionage, it has played well with the often criticized laws of the Chinese government.
Last year, for example, Apple caught the anti-aircraft service for taking out the NYT application from the Chinese app store, a move that was followed by the removal of certain VPN applications according to regulations Chinese
More recently, the company transferred Chinese iCloud data and cryptographic keys to local servers managed by Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Co. Ltd., a decision criticized by privacy advocates. For its part, Apple says it advocated that iCloud is not subject to China's cyber laws, but called compliance a cost of doing business in the country.