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Apple Users Receive ‘Ghostly’ Emails From 1970

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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iOS bug sending empty email messages to iPad and iPhone users

Several iPhone and iPad owners have started to receive ‘ghostly’ emails dated from several decades ago.

Users on Reddit say the Mail app is serving up messages from ‘January 1, 1970’, absent of any sender details or content, and cannot be opened. Some wondered if  this was an attempt by hackers to try and disable their device.

Blast from the past

1970 emailHowever, it seems that the real reason has less to do with paranormal activity and more to do with a bug affecting the way that iOS devices deal with receiving email in different time zones.

January 1, 1970 represents point zero in UNIX time – the way that computers often understand times and dates, with each second since midnight on that date marking a different point in UNIX time. This means that if an email is sent without any time data, or a time zone bug means that the email data cannot be interpreted properly, the device will default to its zero hour.

And it seems that the bug can be conquered by closing the email app then performing a hard reset of the device.

The issue is the second time-hopping error to affect iOS devices in recent weeks. Last month, iPhone users were warned to take care when setting the date on their devices after a number of customers found that inadvertently changing the year to January 1 1970 ‘bricked’ their device.

This news led many observers to question why iPhones, which were first launched in 2007, even have the option to turn the clock back all the way to the 1970s, especially when the devices set the time automatically.

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