WhatsApp and Messenger: beware of the phone-blocking message

Messaging apps, WhatsApp in the lead, are again in the eye of the storm. A message can block Android phones

A few months ago it was the turn of iPhone users, today of those who own an Android smartphone. At the center, always WhatsApp and other instant messaging applications, used to pull unsympathetic screens to the detriment of other users of the communication platform.

Today as then, in fact, the danger of seeing the phone locked and being forced to drastic operations - such as restoring the phone to factory settings, for example - is very concrete. For a few days, in fact, among the Italian users of WhatsApp circulates a message apparently harmless, but with potentially devastating effects. It consists of only 3 lines of text (a hundred or so visible characters, no more) and a large black dot; the text of the message reads "If you touch the black dot, WhatsApp will crash", while just below is the infamous black dot followed by the string "t-touch-here".

What happens if you touch the black button

Although, apparently, the message consists of a hundred or so characters, the reality is quite different. The closing string, in fact, is composed of 1,996 characters, most of them hidden. By pressing on the message (and not necessarily on the black dot), you will force the application to decode all the hidden characters, thus heavily affecting the device resources. In the case of a new smartphone - or in any case a sufficiently powerful one - the decoding will take a few tens of seconds, during which the smartphone will be locked and unusable; if the device is older, it could become unstable and force the user to a reboot, if not more drastic operations. The abnormal behavior of the device seems to occur even if the message is sent via Messenger (messaging platform always belonging to the "galaxy" of Facebook services), while Telegram is immune to the problem.

How to defend yourself from the attempted attack on WhatsApp and Messenger

Like any other "joke" of the kind, the trick to avoid locking the phone and being forced to restart it or worse, is not to open the incriminated chat. By taking advantage of the message preview, available both within WhatsApp and in the phone's notifications, we could ascertain the nature and content of the messages received and thus avoid any problems whatsoever.