A bug discovered in iOS can disable an iPhone’s ability to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots if it tries to connect to a hotspot with a specific name that interrupts the function. Once triggered, the bug would make your iPhone unable to establish a Wi-Fi connection, even if rebooted or the Wi-Fi hotspot is renamed.
First reported by Bleeping Computer, the bug was discovered by an engineer Carl Schou, who started having problems when logging into a personal Wi-Fi hotspot named %p%s%s%s%s%n on his iPhone running iOS 14.4.2. According to 9to5Mac, the bug also affects iPads, as well as services like Airdrop.
Schou wrote in a tweet: “After joining my personal WiFi with the SSID “%p%s%s%s%s%n”, my iPhone permanently disabled its WiFi functionality. Neither rebooting nor changing SSID fixes it.”
Though it was confirmed by other daring Twitter users who tried to connect to a Wi-Fi network with the same name, it was finally confirmed. MacRumors reported that this malicious activity is observed by iOS users only.
Other tests led to the behavior described by Schou, where the iPhone’s Wi-Fi setting would be disabled, and we could no longer enable it again.
Luckily, the bug doesn’t appear to source permanent harm to your Apple hardware and can be fixed
A Security Risk
Theoretically, this bug could be a security risk because it could allow malicious hackers to plant Wi-Fi hotspots to get into people’s iPhones without a password, smashing their devices temporarily. The bug appears to be isolated to Apple’s iOS operating system. Security experts believe an input parsing issue is probably the cause. Simply it implies, that the % character could confuse iOS with programming commands and variables.
“Although iOS is brilliant, the ‘%’ character can trip up an operating system by confusing it into thinking it’s an alter ego from another language,” says Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET. “Luckily, this bug isn’t permanent, but with a devilish mind, malicious actors could exploit those who click on it and take advantage of their situation.”
To fix the problem on affected iPhones, users have to reset their iOS network settings through these simple steps:
- Open Settings
- Select General then Reset
- Select Reset Network Settings
- Confirm the request.
- The device will now restart and reset all of your network settings back to factory default. Once it has restarted, enter your passcode, and you can reconfigure your Wi-Fi settings again
Generally, you don’t come across Wi-Fi networks named “%p%s%s%s%s%n” on daily basis, therefore, it is safe to be vigilant about any network with a percent sign or in the same vein as this one until Apple fixes the issue in an update.