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Although Google originally created Project Zero mainly to track down zero-day weaknesses in Microsoft Windows, it also hunts down vulnerabilities in Apple products. This is how it discovered a bug in Apple’s iMessage that can render an iPhone totally unusable. It even survives hard resets – leaving owners no choice but to carry out a factory reset.
Google Project Zero researcher Natalie Silvanovich recently said that the message vulnerability can make an Apple Mac “crash and respawn.” On iPhones, the bug is in Springboard. If it receives a certain message, it will crash and restart in a never-ending loop. If you receive such a message via iMessage, not even a hard reset will make your iPhone work again.
Silvanovich added that the only way that she could make an iPhone work again was to reboot it into recovery mode and then carry out a restore – which erased all the data on the device.
However, if your iPhone is up to date, there is no need to worry. Project Zero warned Apple about the problem three months ago, and it has already fixed the bug with an OS 12.3 release in May. iPhones not running on the latest version of iOS, however, can still become a victim of someone exploiting the bug.
The easiest solution is to simply activate the automatic software update facility in iOS 12, which will protect your iPhone against vulnerabilities such as this one. Just launch the Settings app, find the General section, and choose the software update option. Next, make sure that “automatic updates” is activated.
If your iPhone is not yet running on iOS 12.3, however, your best option is to update to the latest version of iOS immediately – because every hacker out there is now aware of the bug in earlier versions, and it will only take one of them to send you a malicious message that “bricks” your phone.