Skype gets tripped up by stray characters

In certain versions of Skype, if you get a message with just one short phrase, you're in for a crash. But a fix seems to be on the way.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Beware! A simple string of characters can take down Skype. Skype

Skype users have fallen prey to a bug that crashes certain versions of the communications program.

Skype users took to the company's forums Tuesday, reporting that if they had engaged in a chat with another user and received an instant message containing the string "http://:" in the Windows, Android or iOS versions of the program, the apps would crash. What's worse, when users tried to log back on to Skype, the service automatically downloads the last chat from the company's servers and again crashes the software.

The issue, which does not affect Skype for Mac or the touch version of Skype for Windows 8.1, allows jokesters or mean-spirited users to send a message to someone else and prevent them from accessing their accounts. Perhaps even more troubling, Skype accounts are left practically unusable after receiving just a single instance of the offending string.

Skype, however, may have already addressed the issue, which was first reported Tuesday by VentureBeat. On Wednesday, a person using the handle "Aimi" and tagged in the forums as a staff moderator posted a new thread informing users that Skype's engineers had resolved the bug. According to Aimi, all affected platforms can now be patched with a software update. The company has not immediately responded to a request for comment.

The Skype flaw is the second in as many weeks to affect a messaging application. Last week, Apple's iOS was was found to be a victim of another quirky bug. Whenever a string of characters in non-Latin script, including Arabic or Chinese, is sent via text message and received in a notification window, the iOS device crashes.

Although it was initially believed that the flaw affected only Apple's iMessage app, Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure, a Finland-based company, reported that the same string could be sent via social apps Twitter and Snapchat and cause the same issue.

The iOS bug was easily controlled: the crash occurred only after the string popped up in a notifications alert. If viewed in the standard app window, the device wouldn't crash. Apple quickly acknowledged the issue, saying that turning notifications off would fix the problem. The company plans to patch the flaw in a future software update.