by Jim Lynch

How to brick your iPhone by changing the date

Feb 12, 2016
iPhoneMobileSmall and Medium Business

Yes, it's possible to brick your iPhone by changing the date. But it's not something any sane person would want to do to their expensive iPhone

Bugs are a given when it comes to software, and the iPhone is no exception. The latest bug making the rounds on tech sites and discussion forums involves bricking the iPhone by setting its date to January 1, 1970. Please note that I do not recommend that you do this.

This video on YouTube demonstrates what happens:

I’ll share my thoughts below, but as you might imagine the iPhone bricking bug caught the attention of Apple redditors and they had quite a bit to say about it:

Ridingtime: ”Is it really worth it to brick your phone to make a video?”

IAtetheTiger: ”Apparently the issue fixes itself once the battery dies. So if he happened to have another iPhone lying around, it wouldn’t be burdensome to have the “bricked” iPhone lie around for 12 hours to kill it’s battery.

Don’t take my word that a dead battery resets the issue. It’s just something I read.”

FightThePowers: ”The reason it works if the battery dies, is the CMOS battery or iPhone logic board equivalent of a CMOS battery, is what helps store timing information even when your phone dies. If that battery dies then it no longer knows the time. It will then probably revert to the default time they have stored, where certificates will validate.”

Mrcrassic: ”Also, phones don’t have backup batteries; it uses the sole battery it comes with to keep the clock running, hence why COMPLETELY draining it (which takes FOREVER to do even after you “run out” of battery) fixes this.”

Enigma: ”This is because iOS is a derivative of UNIX which bases its time off of what is know as UNIX (or POSIX ) time ( which starts all system time from January 1st 1970. Mostly because UNIX was created some time in 1971 at Bell Labs.”

Muffinizer: ”iOS is a derivative of UNIX, which is also a system characterized by its command line interface. That doesn’t mean apple is required to give you shell access to your phone, even if it’s pretty much all there outside of the users reach.”

Megablast: ”When should they stop it? What magic date should they limit it to?”

Ewweaver: ”Makes sense to set the lower limit to 27th June 2009 2007 as nobody would own an iPhone in a time before then.

However this issue would be resolved by using any date after 1st January 1970. Programmatically, time is measured as the number of seconds since 1970-01-01T00:00:00UTC±00:00. Therefore any time before then will get a negative number. This bug should only occur in a timezone that is UTC- (not UTC+) because you are not able to select a time before 1970.

There is no ‘magic date’ they should limit it to. They should account for negative values or move the oldest selectable date forward a little (more than 12 hours would do it).”

Ninthreddit: ”Can’t this bug also be initiated by others? Hijack NTP on a network and force all iPhones to set their time to Jan 1 1970? Or does NTP provide protections around attacks like this?”

Mb862: ”While NTP does appear to have some notable avenues of abuse, the system is designed to coalesce time from multiple servers, so to exploit this bug in iOS one would have to compromise multiple servers simultaneously, cut off those servers from other NTP servers, and cut off the devices from talking to uncompromised servers. It seems that the system was designed in part to prevent maliciously incorrect time.”

More at Reddit

Why do people do these strange things with their iPhones?

My first reaction to news of this bug was simply wondering why anybody would want to brick their iPhone by doing this? Yeah, okay it’s sort of an interesting bug in iOS. But who would want to risk ruining an expensive phone just to screw around like that?

And I also wondered why Apple hasn’t done something to fix the problem. Maybe just stop users from changing the time that far back or something like that? There has to be a relatively easy software fix to remove this bug permanently.

I don’t know, maybe it’s me but sometimes I think people have just a little too much time on their hands when it comes to these kinds of things. I can think of many other things I can do with my iPhone that don’t involve bricking it by screwing around with bugs in the software.

Maybe I’m just weird that way.

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