WhatsApp has been no stranger to phone-breaking bugs and security breaches over the years, with the latest one yet again causing the app to crash your phone.
There’s a link going around the Android version of WhatsApp (wa.me/settings) that, if clicked on, will cause your phone to crash as soon as you open a group or individual chat containing it. The actual trigger is as simple as opening a chat with the link, though thankfully the app restarts normally after that, unless you happen to open that message thread again.
The offending link sends you to the app’s settings page, which makes it even more malicious for those used to the shortcut. Twitter user BruteBee first discovered the bug, while Android Authority confirmed that version 188.8.131.52 of the app is currently the one impacted, though it’s still unknown whether other versions have experienced this bugged link as of now.
It’s similar to previous bugs in which an otherwise innocuous link or image hides a malicious feature that wreaks havoc on your phone and results in it crashing. Back in 2018, there were at least two of these, one being the infamous black dot in the center of a WhatsApp message that crashed phones and the other a random Telugu language character in messages that crashed iOS phones. And in 2020 there was another set of text bombs or ‘crash codes’ that resulted in a crash loop.
The cause for this issue is most likely how WhatsApp resolves the URL for the shortened link. And while there’s no official fix for the bug just yet, Android Police reports of a workaround for the bugged link until WhatsApp officially does push a patch down. It seems that WhatsApp Web is immune to the link’s effects, so if you find yourself a victim of constant phone crashes, log into your account through your browser and delete the message with the link.
Technically this means that you can also send the link safely through WhatsApp Web, though it’s probably not wise to do so until the bug is completely fixed. Hopefully, that patch will be coming in soon.
We’ve reached out to Meta for comment on this issue and will update this story once we’ve received an official statement concerning the matter.