13 Character Chrome Hack that can Crash any Tab on a Mac

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Are you a Google Chrome user on a Mac-based computer, if-so, a small 13 character hack could cause your internet browser to crash instantly.

One user has uncovered a small quirk within the Chromium browser, showing that 13 characters apart of the Assyrian alphabet can crash any tab in Chrome instantly, strictly on Mac OS X machines.

The small 13 character Chrome hack has been reported to the Open Source project that maintains Chromium’s code, meaning Google is aware of the issue and is likely in the midst of releasing a patch for the blunder.

As reported on Google’s Chromium development page, Matt C describes his experience with the 13 character Chrome hack:

What steps will reproduce the problem?
1. Any page with [removed]will crash the chrome tab on a Mac
2. Just create any dummy page with the unicode characters, and the Mac Chrome tab will crash hard

What is the expected result?
Expect it not to crash

What happens instead?
It crashes

Other
This is pretty serious. You could imagine someone spamming this message in hangouts/gmail and just straight-up force crashing all Mac Chrome browsers. Someone could post this on Facebook, and force-crash all Mac Chrome browsers that saw it.

The 13 character Chrome hack that leads to the mysterious crashing of the Chrome browser can be seen in the image below:

13 character Chrome hack

13 Characters that Lead to Chrome Crash

The issue may seem small, but in reality could be far more impactful than initially believed. A user could post the following characters on Twitter, causing someones Chrome browser to instantly crash without their knowledge. The characters could then cause the browser to be sent into a crash loop, not allowing the page to render til the 13 characters disappear from your timeline.

The crash ID of the bug appears as d043b37f53c2436f in Chrome and has been reported to not crash all versions of Chrome on Mac OS X machines. In some cases, such as on iPhone and Android, users reported seeing 13 small boxes instead of the Assyrian characters written out. The same boxes you see when a user may post emoticon from their iPhone and you try to view it from another device. The rectangles appear when an obsolete system cannot read the font or script.

Thought the 13 character Chrome hack may appear insignificant, it could cause drastic damage if abused correctly. The original user who posted his findings laid out a number of scenarios where the 13 characters could be abused, stating someone could crash an entire room of Chrome users in one chat, or cause people the inability to access their Facebook or other social media accounts.

One proactive measure to avoid the 13 characters from crashing your browser is to install another font pack, causing the text to render improperly, halting the bug before it becomes an issue. Another tip to avoid the possible 13 character crash is to use another browser for the time being, such as Mozilla FireFox.

Why 13 covert characters can crash an entire Chrome browser is unknown, but it appears Google has been rolling out fixes to address the pesky issue.

Photo via drazz/Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

About Author

Brandon Stosh is the founder and CEO of www.freedomhacker.net. Stosh is a cyber security researcher and professional consultant who strives to provide reliable news on cyber-security based topics.

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