WhatsApp users have been put on alert about a video, supposedly entitled “Dance Of The Pope” that is capable of leveraging the messaging app to take control of your smartphone – wiping your data from the handset and damaging it until “nothing will fix it”. As millions of people across the globe stay inside to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and stop the virus overwhelming health services, messaging platforms like WhatsApp are increasingly being relied upon to keep in touch with friends and loved ones.
That makes this latest warning, which has circulated amongst WhatsApp users in the past, particularly worrying.
Since this is a chain-mail style message that circulates between people, in the vast majority of its instances, the hoax message you’re sent will state something like: “Please inform all contacts from your list not to open a video called “Dance of the Pope”. It is a virus that formats your mobile. Beware it is very dangerous. They announced it today on BBC radio. Fwd this message to as many as you can!”
The message has circulated a number of times since it first surfaced back in 2015. However, there is no evidence the “Dance Of The Pope” video even exists. In fact, it has been widely debunked.
Snopes, the hugely-popular fact-checking website, has confirmed that WhatsApp users aren’t under any threat from a video capable of hacking or wiping your handset.
MORE LIKE THIS
WhatsApp now restricts the messages you send as part of important new changes
While playing a deliberately booby-trapped video file on your device could result in a malware infection – your smartphone would have to harbour an unpatched bug in the media player software that a cyber crook could exploit. In reality, these flaws are identified in the likes of iOS and Android – the two most popular mobile operating systems around today – pretty quickly.
The same hoax message also circulates with the name of the video threat changed from “Dance Of The Pope” to “Martinelli”. In every other respect, these are the same messages – and have the same level of threat to your device. That is to say, none.