So, 2 days ago I receive a WhatsApp message from my friend saying “ -don’t touch here- “, so … I did exactly the opposite of that! And there for a few moments my phone hanged, everything froze. But it went back to normal in a few seconds. I did it a few more times to see if it happened again, and it did. Next day I received the same WhatsApp message -don’t touch here-, from few more friends.
And everyone started wondering whether it was a virus and that it might get their phones hacked. Or after they touch it maybe the hacker will be able to read all their messages and what not.
Now, being curious I wanted to know why exactly is this happening. So I decided to try it on different devices, and I concluded that it only affected few Android devices. So, next thing was to test it on WhatsApp Web, and I found that it was showing the message inverted, like a mirror image on WhatsApp Web and it of-course didn’t hang my Laptop. Here’s the screenshot from my mobile WhatsApp and WhatsApp Web.
Now, it was time to see things from a different perspective. Meaning what we see on our screens is not what our mobile phones/computers see. They only know numbers and codes, i.e. Binary, Hexadecimal, ASCII, etc. If you have ever studied some C programming, you would be familiar that computers understand the text in ASCII format. Click to know more about ASCII if you don’t know.
So, I copied that -don’t touch here- message and tried to convert it in ASCII, and to my surprise what I saw was that simple looking text contained 23,643 characters in it. These characters are special characters and WhatsApp isn’t programmed to read or process such characters, which makes them appear as blank spaces.
Whenever someone tried to touch the don’t-touch-here message, WhatsApp had to process all those characters at the same time. Which might cause it to hang for a while, or even crash.
Now one thing was clear, that it has to do something with how our devices processed these characters. But is it the problem with Android OS, or with WhatsApp? So, I tried sending the same message on different messaging apps such as Hike, Allo, Instagram etc. and as expected, these text message only affected WhatsApp users (and even Telegram in certain cases).
Final Verdict: “don’t-touch-here”
End of story, it has something to do with how WhatsApp processes it’s text messages. I’ll update this post in future if I can exactly figure out how WhatsApp processes the text and if this effect is WhatsApp version specific. Let’s hope it will be fixed soon.