A new ‘crash code’ is circulating on chat app WhatsApp, according to several user reports.
The code causes the app to completely crash, giving the user no way to reopen the app, without fully deleting and reinstalling it.
Unless a user has backed up their Whatsapp data, such a process could wipe a user's entire WhatsApp chat history.
WABetaInfo first reported the crash code in a blog after receiving several reports from concerned WhatsApp users.
How do the crash codes work?
The WABetaInfo blog explained that the codes are sent in spam messages and may appear nonsensical but harmless at first to a user.
The blog reads “A contact might send a message that contains many weird characters. If you read them entirely, they have no sense, but WhatsApp might interpret the message in a wrong way.
“Sometimes WhatsApp is also unable to render the message totally, because its structure is so weird: the combination of these characters create a situation where WhatsApp isn’t able to process the message, determining an infinite crash.
“Infinite crash means that, when you open WhatsApp, it is frozen and it crashes. If you try to open the app again, it still crashes.”
How can I protect my account?
Speaking to Mirror Online Digital Privacy Expert at ProPrivacy, Ray Walsh, revealed how users can protect themselves against such messages.
He said: “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.
“Anybody who finds that they have received a message containing a long string of random characters is advised to login to WhatsApp Web to block the sender, delete the message, and alter their group privacy settings to “My Contacts” or “My Contacts except...”
“This should allow anybody suffering from a locked up mobile WhatsApp app to reinstall it and clear up the issue.”
WhatsApp has now released a patch to addresses this issue in its latest iOS software update.
However in order to benefit from this you need to keep your WhatsApp app and mobile operating system up to date with the latest updates.