WhatsApp users are facing a security threat from a malicious link that can crash their phones. The link (wa.me/settings) is circulating on the Android version of WhatsApp and if you click on it or open a chat that contains it, your phone will crash immediately. The only way to avoid the crash is to not open the chat with the link. The app will work normally after the crash unless you open the same chat again.
The link looks harmless as it directs you to the app’s settings page, which is a common shortcut for many users. The bug was discovered by Twitter user BruteBee and it affects version 18.104.22.168 of the app. It is not clear if other versions are also affected by this bug.
This bug is similar to previous ones that used a link or an image or a text to crash phones. In 2018, there were two such bugs, one involving a black dot in a WhatsApp message and another involving a Telugu character in messages that crashed iOS phones. In 2020, there were also some text bombs or crash codes that caused a crash loop.
Fortunately, there is a way to fix this problem. If you encounter this bug, you should delete the chat completely to remove the link. But if you can’t do that, you can use WhatsApp Web on a browser, go to the chat with the link and delete the link only. The link does not cause a crash on the browser and deleting it will make the chat work normally on the app on Android.
However, this is only a temporary solution. Meta, the owner of WhatsApp, needs to address this issue and release an update.