This Beautiful Image Here Can Kill Android Phones. Do Not Use It As A Wallpaper

This image can brick Android phones if set to wallpaper

Smartphones are merely computers shrunk to the size of a palm. Thinking with bits and bytes, they don't see things like humans do.

This is clearly shown with this image right here. What seems to be a beautiful image of the sun setting beyond the mountains by the lake, can somehow cause some Android phones to crash, experience bootloop to then be literally soft-bricked.

This can happen if the image is set as a wallpaper.

Upon being set, the device would crash and continually turns the screen on and off on the lockscreen.

There’s no way to leave this loop as even a reboot would keep the phone doing this after turning back on.

The issue was first discovered by Ice Universe, who shared its finding on Twitter.

Apparently, though, this doesn’t affect all Android smartphones.

While the image can crash Android phones, it won't crash any devices when the image is only opened. Using any app, opening the image won't cause any issue. The issue only happens if the image is set as a wallpaper.

At first, users claimed that the image can crash Samsung, Xiaomi and Google phones. Android Authority said that a Huawei Mate 20 Pro they tested didn’t show any problems. Twitter users replying to Ice Universe suggested that OnePlus phones may also be immune along with some devices from other brands.

But later, it was suggested that the exploit can only happen on Android 10 devices and older, regardless of the brand.

So what could be happening?

Ice Universe noted in a follow-up tweet that uploading the image to Weibo altered the colors slightly and, after that, it became harmless. Another user found that altering the image seemed to prevent the issues as well. This suggested that there could be something wrong with the image' metadata, as uploading or altering images can sometimes strip it of metadata.

This was later found to be true.

The color profile of the image exceeds the limits of what Android 10 can handle.

Typically, Android wants to display sRGB (Standard Red Green Blue), which is a color space developed by HP and Microsoft cooperatively in 1996 to use on monitors, printers, and the web. But this image here uses the RGB color space instead. On Android 11, the system converts the color space, but on Android 10 it does not.

"There are different ways of defining the colour space. Some spaces have specialist uses in graphic design, so sometimes you'll see images that aren't in the usual 'Standard RGB' format. It's also possible to deliberately create images that have more colour information than some devices can handle," explained researchers from the cybersecurity firm Pen Test Partners.

What this means, the issue is not limited to this particular image. It’s a formatting flaw, and so could be embedded in other images yet to surface.

Fortunately for some Android users that are already affected by this glitch, the bootloop sequence that initiates as fail-safe mechanism, could in certain occasions enter the recovery menu.

If this happens, users end in the device's safe mode, meaning that they should be able to change the wallpaper away, or simply delete the image from the device.

Else, if the device continues to bootloop for several times without entering safe mode, the phone is literally soft-bricked.

The only thing users can do, is to initiate a force factory reset on the phone. All data will be wiped, as the phone returns to how it was when it was first shipped.

The phone should work after that.

Just a few days after this issue was first revealed, Google said that it has been working on a fix.

Previously, iPhone users were at risk of a specially formatted text in Sindhi characters that could crash their phones.

Published: 
01/06/2020