'Black dot' emoji locking up iPhone, iPad and Mac messaging app – reports

MANILA, Philippines – An emoji, containing strings of hidden code, has been discovered to have the ability to crash and disable the messaging app of iPhones, iPads, and Macs, and possibly, even WatchOS and tvOS devices. 

The emoji in question is a black dot with a finger pointing at it. 

When a message containing the emoji is received and opened by a user, the message crashes the messaging app of the device, and will not be usable even if one restarts the app or the device until certain steps are taken. (READ: iPhone X is the world's best-selling smartphone of early 2018 – report)

The emoji's ability to disable the messaging app, as the website 9to5 Mac explains, comes from the hidden code embedded in the emoji, which overloads the device's CPU:

"The secret is that the strings contain thousands of hidden invisible Unicode characters, which churns through CPU cycles as the system attempts to process them. If this specially crafted text is sent through Messages, it will result in repeated crashes when the recipient tries to read it," says the Apple-dedicated website. 

The bug originated among WhatsApp users on Android, but impact is said to be minimal. For Apple devices, the effect can be crippling, and can affect the whole system eventually, as Forbes reports. "The text disables iMessage before spreading more widely into iOS, MacOS and their apps," said the site. 

Reports have also said that the bug works on all iOS versions including the latest beta version of iOS 11.4. (READ: Apple’s 4-inch iPhone SE 2 could launch in May)

There are a number of fixes for certain devices.

For iPhones with 3D Touch, here are the steps:

1) Force close the message app.
2) Use 3D Touch on the app, and select the new message option.
3) Once in the new message window, hit cancel, which will take you back to the list of conversations.
4) Delete the black dot message from the list. 

For devices with Siri:

1) Force close the app.
2) Ask Siri to send a reply to whoever sent the message.
3) Keep sending replies via Siri until the black dot is off the screen. 
4) Open the messaging app, hit back, and delete the black dot message from the list. 

For devices without Siri or 3D Touch: 

1) Use another Apple device to load and log in to iMessage on there.
2) Delete the black dot message from the conversation list on the other Apple device. Do not open the message there.

The black dot bug was first reported by popular YouTuber EverythingApplePro on Tuesday, May 8, adding that the exploit may have primarily been in use as a prank.

The bug is similar to the one Apple devices experienced in February with a certain Indian character. Apple rolled out a fix soon after the bug was discovered. – Rappler.com