WhatsApp is one of the most popular instant messaging applications on the planet and is used by over a billion people. The application and service is owned by Facebook and available across most of the planet on a number of different platforms, from Android to iOS to Windows Phone, and may be accessed via a web browser. The application receives regular updates in order to fix issues, bugs and problems, plus adding new features such as VoIP (Voice Over Internet, or, calling over the Internet) functionality. Researchers have discovered a bug in existing versions of WhatsApp for Android that can cause the application to crash and the conversation data to be unrecoverable. The only known resolution is to delete the offending message thread. which of course loses all of the information in this particular thread.
The flaw works when somebody uses the web browser client to send an instant message to an Android WhatsApp user, whereby the message is at least 5,000 emoji characters – some 1,000 characters below WhatsApp’s character limit. The application refuses to open following receiving the message and instead force closes. The application then cannot be opened but instead constantly force closes. The researcher reports that the iPhone version of the application suffers from a slowdown should the number of characters exceed 4,500 in a message but works right up to the 6,000 character limit. However, for the Android version, it appears that what might be a harmless prank can mean the end user must remove all messsages from the application. As the researcher points out, this may not be such a harmless prank: until the developer fixes the issue, this means that should somebody intentionally wish to force somebody to delete their application message database, there is an easy way to do this. This could be a way to remove evidence of cyberbullying or blackmail for example.
Currently, WhatsApp has not acknowledged the flaw but we are sure the company is aware of it and their team of developers are working on a fix. As soon as we hear any news from the developers or of a fix, we will let you know. Meanwhile, as there is no fix for the bug, if you suspect somebody may be in a position to cause your WhatsApp to crash, you might want to consider taking regular backups of the data.