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Elham AbolFateh

Science & Technology

Warning over Whatsapp 'text bomb' that could crash your phone

Tuesday 08/May/2018 - 04:46 PM
Edited by: Yara Sameh

WhatsApp users are being warned about a new 'text bomb' that can cause their iOS and Android handsets to freeze, daily mail reported.

It is being spread by messages sent via the popular app and comes in two varieties. One reads: 'This is very interesting' with a crying while laughing emoji, followed by 'Read more'. Tapping on 'read more' causes your handset to freeze.

Another features a black dot and contains the words ‘if you touch the black point then your WhatsApp will hang’. Clicking on the black dot causes the crash to occur.

The code powering the messages is being shared on Pastebin, meaning anyone can find it online, copy and paste it, then spread the text bomb via WhatsApp.

Anyone who is sent the text bomb is advised to delete the message in question. The safest way to do this is to delete the conversation thread it is part of, rather than clicking on the message itself.

Devices caught out by the bomb may need to be rebooted. To do this, hold down the power button on your handset until the restart option appears, or power down the device then power it back up if this option isn't available.

WhatsApp has yet to issue a statement, but the Facebook-owned firm is likely to issue a software patch fixing the problem in the near future.

The bug has been hidden in the specially crafted messages according to Neowin, who first reported the text bomb after spotting claims made on Reddit.

In the first message, the code in question is hidden just after the emoji and clicking on 'read more' causes Whatsapp to expand this part of the message. In the second, the code is hidden after the dot icon.

Both work by overloading the operating system with tens of thousands of text characters. This prompts WhatsApp to freeze and brings with it a warning message that says that the app is not responding.

It can also cause the entire operating system to crash, requiring a reboot - although it does not seem to do any permanent damage.

‘Not only is WhatsApp crashing, my whole system process gets stuck, and I need to restart my phone,’ said the Reddit user who spotted the bug.

This is not the first time that a devastating 'text bomb' that crashes devices has been uncovered by researchers.

In February, a bug was discovered that sends Apple iPhones, iPads and Macs into a frenzy thanks to a single character from a language used in India.

Opening a message containing the Telugu language character is enough to crash iOS Springboard, the system app which manages the device's home screen.

Apple gadgets running iOS 11.2.5 or macOS, are susceptible to the bug, which disables access to iMessages.

Other popular messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Outlook for iOS, and Gmail, are also cut off.

The character is from a Dravidian language spoken in India by about 70 million people, roughly five per cent of the country's population.

As apps try and fail to load the character, users can get trapped in an endless loop of crashes.

The only way to escape this cycle is to get someone else to message you and delete the thread containing the malicious message.

Software updates are believed to have since fixed the problem, so iOS users are advised to ensure their operating systems are up to date.


How do you spot the text bomb?

WhatsApp users are being warned about a new text bomb that can cause their handset to freeze.

The message reads: 'This is very interesting (emoji)…Read more.'

The emoji in question is the face with tears of joy - or crying while laughing - emoji.

A second variation is said to contain the words ‘if you touch the black point then your WhatsApp will hang’, followed by an image of a black dot.

How is the text bomb being spread?

The message is being shared on the Pastebin code repository, meaning anyone can copy and paste it then spread it via the messaging app.

What should you do if you are sent it?

Anyone who is sent either text bomb is advised to delete the message in question.

The safest way to do this without triggering it is to delete the whole conversation thread, rather than the individual message.

What happens if you do activate it?

Clicking on either the 'read more' section or the black dot in these messages will activate the bug.

If you have been unlucky enough to activate it, this may cause WhatsApp to crash or even your whole device to freeze.

This will require a full system reboot - usually achieved by holding down the power button on your handset until a restart option appears, or powering down then powering back up if this doesn't happen.

Apple's products have been plagued by so-called text bombs, which can crash and freeze devices through malicious messages.

The ChaiOS hack, revealed in January 2018, causes devices to crash and can delete all your messages, affects any device running iOS and Mac OS.

The flaw was discovered by software developer Abraham Masri, based in Chicago, who shared a link which can be used to crash Apple's Message app on social media.

It does so through massively long strings of text information, which overloads the system.

Both ChaiOS and a bug discovered in February 2018 involving an Indian language character are similar to another called Effective Power.

This was first reported in May 2015.

Malicious messages containing the word 'Power' as well as Arabic and Marathi characters and the Chinese character meaning 'redundant', were sent out.

They also crashed the Messages app, and if an iOS user received the text while their handset was locked the bug would force their phone to reboot.




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