Apple and its devices have already been facing issues with specific characters or groups of characters causing odd app failures on the iPhone, and now Google’s Android platform is suffering from a very similar error after it was found that one particular “black bot” character is capable of causing WhatsApp to crash.
Be aware. All you need to do if it happens for a user to receive the character and then tap it, causing the app and system to fail. Well, it actually appears that the character is not a character at all, but rather an emoji dot. Users receive a message daring them to touch the dot itself and when they do so, WhatsApp becomes unresponsive.
However, the case study proves that this is not quite as simple as it may have initially seemed. For starters, tapping anywhere in the message will cause WhatsApp to fail, suggesting that the dot itself is nothing to do with the error.
So what is it and what’s going on? According to YouTuber Tom Scott, that message is actually made up of thousands of invisible characters which ultimately cause Android’s text rendering engine to have a wobble, eventually causing the app to become responsive.
In fact, in the video, it shows to offer a great explanation of what actually is going on, but the upshot is that the message is made up of special characters which Unicode uses to specify whether the text should be displayed in right-to-left or left-to-right format. That’s perfectly normal, but it would appear that a very specific collection of characters causes the error we’re seeing here.
Of course, this all means that the error message is not WhatsApp specific so you could come across this anywhere. Ultimately, it’s not going to cause any huge problems as far as security is concerned, but we would expect Google to roll out a fix regardless.
Whether your particular device will ever get it though, remains to be seen. Stay tuned!
(Source: Tom Scott [YouTube])
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