Sony PlayStation 4 users have been put on high alert following the discovery of a bug that utilizes a text message exploit to render the units inoperable.
Earlier this month, PlayStation 4 users started reporting that their gaming consoles were crashing after they opened certain PSN messages.
The exploit first became known a few weeks ago as reports of the bug spread across the internet.
The first mention of the message came from Reddit user Huntstark.
In a post on the PS4 subreddit, Huntstark stated that another player from the game ‘Rainbow Six: Siege’ used a dummy account to send him the unsolicited message, which bricked the gaming console and forced him to factory reset it.
The Reddit user added that deleting the message from PlayStation’s mobile app was not effective.
Many other users have since reported the similar issue after opening a message containing a box with question marks (presumably characters that the PS4 system cannot recognize) and an emoji.
In some cases, the user does not have to even open the PSN message. Simply receiving notifications on the console may be sufficient to trigger the crash.
The main reason behind the attack is still unknown. The current speculation is that malicious actors on PSN are utilizing the messages to keep people offline in the competitive games, thus offering an advantage to their teams.
Reports indicate that the PlayStation 4 gamers are sending the malicious messages via group chat.
Sony, who have since responded to the incident, clarified on Twitter that the consoles are not being bricked but sent into a crash loop.
This freezes and temporarily breaks the PlayStation 4’s internal software. The bug lies within the character combination within the message.
Several years ago, a similar text-based bug was employed to crash iPhones. This kind of bug is referred to as a “CoreText” bug and is the result of a combination of Unicode and ASCII characters.
The Steps to Protect Yourself from the Exploit
If you are a PlayStation 4 user, protecting yourself from this bug is surprisingly simple.
In the Reddit post by Huntstark, the poster stated that while their whole team crashed in the game, one team member was not affected.
That team member apparently kept his PSN messaging set to private. Therefore, if you are yet to fall victim to the bug, this is one of the ways that you can protect your system.
How to Set Your PlayStation Account to Private
- Turn on your console.
- Go to the Settings Menu.
- Select Account Management followed by Privacy Settings.
- Enter your password and select Personal Info / Messaging.
- On the final page, change Messages’ to “No One” or “Friends only.”
You can do the same from web-browser of your PC or laptop using the steps below:
- Go to your PSN account.
- Input your details of PS4 account to log in.
- Select Personal / Messages details.
- Select the Edit button that is next to Messages.
- Select Friends Only, No One then keep it unchanged.
Taking the above steps will prevent other PlayStation 4 users from sending you the malicious message. However, if you are already a victim of the message exploit, changing the privacy settings will not fix your gaming console. If this is the case, you may have to rebuild your PlayStation 4’s database.
How to Rebuild Your System’s Database
According to Sony’s support page, below are the steps to rebuild the database in your PS4 system. This process was recommended by Sony after reports of the malicious message were spread earlier this month.
- Log into the PlayStation Android or iOS app and delete the malicious message from there.
- Turn off your PS4 system.
- Once the PS4 is off, press and hold the power button. Release the power button after hearing the second beep. One beep sounds when you first press the button, and another seven seconds later. This will start the PS4 system in Safe Mode, which allows you to fix issues with the system so that it functions normally.
- Connect the DUALSHOCK 4 and press the PS button on the controller.
- Scroll down and select “Rebuild Database.” This option scans the drive and generates a new database of all the content on your system. It will clean up the data on your system and reorganize the hard drive.
A database rebuild will return your PS4 system back to normal.