In Brief

iPhone users warned not to set their phones to 1970

Internet hoaxers share details of fake Apple 'Easter egg' – that renders handsets useless

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iPhone users are being warned by Apple not to fall for a prank that "bricks" their handsets and renders them useless.

Changing the date on an iPhone or iPad to 1 January 1970 will cause it to become permanently stuck while rebooting if it is switched off or runs out of battery.

The bug affects all iPhone, iPads and iPod Touches using 64-bit processors and running iOS 8 or 9, meaning any iPad Air, Mini 2, or iPhone from the 5S onwards can be affected by the device breaking glitch.

What causes this to happen is not 100 per cent known and Apple has yet to issue a reason for the problem. However, YouTube guru Tom Scott, reports MacRumors, says setting the date and time close to 1 January 1970 – 0, in Unix time – may cause an "integer underflow": in this case, a date actually earlier than 1 January 1970.

iOS will attempt to rectify the underflow by "returning the negative integer to the maximum value" but according to Scott, this could be a date "twenty times longer than the universe is expected to last" – a number so long it crashes iOS devices.

It's a similar glitch to the crashsafari hoax carried out earlier this year, where users were sent to a website which crashed their iPhones and caused their computers to run slow, and is also being shared over the internet by pranksters.

According to Wired, a user on the notorious internet imageboard 4chan mocked up an official-looking infographic describing the bug as an iPhone "Easter egg" which would give their device a retro feel. The infographic began to do the rounds on social media, tricking people into breaking their devices.

The Guardian reports that actually changing the date to 1970 is "quite laborious", requiring lots of scrolling, saving the time and re-entering to actually go that far back. Nonetheless, it hasn't deterred some hoaxers, who have taken to bricking Apple Store demonstration phones, says the newspaper.

Acknowledging the issue on its website, Apple said an upcoming software update would provide a solution.

At present, taking the device to an Apple store and getting a new one seems to be the only answer for iPhone users who have fallen prey to the hoax. Restoring the smartphone through iTunes does not work and while removing the battery has been reported as a successful fix, getting it wrong could damage the phone even more and voids the warranty.

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