WABetaInfo has detailed how certain messages are being circulated that will cause WhatsApp to freeze – even if you exit and re-enter the app.
The user then needs to delete and reinstall WhatsApp, which can result in them losing their chat history.
These messages, which WABetaInfo has called “scary messages,” comprise a variety of weird characters which seemingly make no sense.
However, these strange characters are not only confusing to you – WhatsApp either interprets the message incorrectly or is unable to render the message completely.
“The combination of these characters create a situation where WhatsApp isn’t able to process the message, determining an infinite crash,” said WABetaInfo.
Many of these messages are reportedly in the form of VCards, where if you open the VCard, the contacts have long and strange names – which are actually crash codes.
These VCards can also contain payloads to cause further problems for affected users.
There are reportedly many secret WhatsApp groups where users share these codes with the purpose of crashing WhatsApp for users on specific platforms.
How to protect yourself
WABetaInfo said that there isn’t an effective and general fix to this issue.
The best way to protect yourself if you receive a message that appears to be one of these “scary messages” is to block the contact on WhatsApp Web.
However, if WhatsApp Web isn’t able to reach your device – because the app is crashing – you will need to reinstall WhatsApp, which will result in you losing your chat history.
Therefore, WABetaInfo also recommends backing up your chat history at least once a week.
Additionally, WABetaInfo suggests that you set your group privacy setting to “My Contacts” so that unknown contacts can’t add you to groups with these crash codes.
It noted that the issue appears to be particularly prevalent in Brazil based on the users that have discussed the issue with WABetaInfo on social media.
However, the nature of the Internet is such that anyone using WhatsApp is at risk.