Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

WhatsApp: How to stop mysterious bug that crashes the app on your phone

Special characters which cannot be read by the messaging app force it to shut down

Adam Smith
Tuesday 08 September 2020 08:31 BST
(Mika Baumeister )

A WhatsApp bug is causing the app to crash if a user receives a specific piece of text through the messaging platform.

The code causes the app to infinitely crash, meaning the only solution is to uninstall and reinstall it.

The messages use strings of special characters which cannot be read by the messaging app.

These recent WhatsApp codes seem to be coming from Brazil, where it is becoming a widespread issue, according to Wabetainfo which first reported on the problem.

It can also be passed on using VCards, otherwise known as Virtual Contact Files (VCFs).

These contact cards let people easily share and add new contacts to their address book.

When a user opens one of these malicious VCards, it could contain 100 contacts each with a registered name designed to crash the app.

According to Ray Walsh, a digital privacy expert at technology comparison website ProPrivacy, users should change their WhatsApp settings to help protect their apps from interference.

“To help protect themselves all WhatsApp users should go into their settings to change 'Who can add me to groups' from 'Everyone' to 'My Contacts', as this will reduce the risk of being added to a group used to pass over the malevolent message,” Walsh said.

It was also recommended that users who receive a message containing a string of random characters should log in via WhatsApp’s Web application to block the sender and delete the message.

They should then change their group privacy settings to “My Contacts” or “My Contacts except…”

This can be done by going to WhatsApp’s settings menu, then Account, Privacy, Groups, and then choosing one of the two settings from the list.

“WhatsApp has released and already begun rolling out a patch that addresses this in its latest iOS software update", an WhatsApp spokesperson told The Independent

"As with any tech product, we strongly encourage users to keep their WhatsApp app and mobile operating system up to date and download updates whenever they’re available”.

 Other messaging platforms have also suffered shutdowns due to strange characters. 

A flaw in Apple’s default text app meant a message comprised of the Italian flag emoji and a Sindhi character overloaded the device and forced it to shut down.

Recently, a smartphone wallpaper was found to “soft brick” devices on the Android 10 operating system.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in