One of the weirdest iPhone bugs of recent years has been squashed in Apple’s latest version of iOS. The problem manifested itself when an iPhone joined a Wi-Fi network named "%p%s%s%s%s%n" and it had the ability to knock your phone of wireless networks, in some cases requiring the phone be reset to recover.
While unlikely to be a problem for most people, it certainly wasn’t ideal for such a simple bug to be able to wreak such havoc on devices. Users could reset their Wi-Fi settings to recover, but they would need to know to do this for that to be useful. And of course, this is a stark reminder to us all not to randomly join weird Wi-Fi networks, even if their names are appealing or weird.
The issue itself was most likely down to how iOS handles the % character. Commonly used in programming languages it can, in some cases, trip up devices that encounter it in seemingly innocuous places.
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Because this had the ability to potentially annoy many millions of people it’s clearly been a priority for Apple to fix the problem. Version 14.7 has been released to developers this week, so it’s likely to be in the hands of iPhone owners some time reasonably soon. Apple has already announced iOS 15 and it will launch later in the year with the iPhone 13, probably around September.
In the patch notes (opens in new tab) Apple notes that “Joining a malicious Wi-Fi network may result in a denial of service or arbitrary code execution” it goes on to say “This issue was addressed with improved checks”. So the Wi-Fi bit of your phone is now officially very slightly smarter than it was one iOS release ago! Fabulous.
The latest version of iOS will work on iPhone 6s devices and later, as well as all iPad Pros, the iPad Air 2 and later and the iPad 5th generation and iPad Mini 4. In the notes, the user who found the bug is named, which could mean they get a juicy bounty for tracking this one down.