PlayStation users warned each other last week to set their messages to private—meaning only their trusted friends could send them messages. “There is a new glitch that basically bricks your console and forces you to factory reset it,” Redditor Huntstark explained on the PlayStation 4 subreddit.
Sony officially responded to the glitch Monday via its Ask PlayStation UK twitter account. “We've since fixed the issue, and it wasn't bricking consoles, just sending them into a crash loop that can be quickly fixed in under 5 minutes,” Ask PlayStation UK wrote on Twitter. “Delete the message on the PS mobile app, go into Safe Mode, use Option 5, console back to normal.”
Huntstark said that he and his team received the message from from a rival player during a game of Rainbow Six: Siege, and that it crashed all of their systems. The only teammate to survive the encounter had their messages set to private. Other redditors told similar stories and speculated that rival teams were using the glitch to kick competitors out of multiplayer games such as Rainbow Six: Siege and Rocket League to easily win matches. Motherboard was not able to independently confirm players were doing this.
The offending message seemed to contain a indecipherable bit of unicode that crashed the PlayStation.
This wouldn’t be the first time people have used indecipherable unicode to crash a system. It’s a recurring problem on the iPhone. In 2015, trolls discovered that sending a string of Arabic characters to iPhones would overload their memory and crash the devices. In February, a new glitch using the Indian Telugu language and got the same result. Then, in March, another unicode glitch made the rounds, this time spreading a “black dot of death.” The black dot crashed both Apple and Android devices.
In all cases, the glitch works the same. A malicious actor sends a bit of unicode the device can’t process, it overloads the system’s memory, and the whole thing crashes. The only way to fix the device is to remove the offending unicode from the memory and, typically, the only way to do that is to factory reset the device. The PlayStation glitch is just an old prank on a new system.