Is WhatsApp ‘Martinelli’ virus message a hoax or real threat to mobile users? What we know so far

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New Delhi | November 23, 2018 10:43 PM

The WhatsApp message that has reached many users, as reported by The Independent, is cautioning them of a threat that can hack their phone

WhatsApp Martinelli video and WhatsApp Gold message are being shared on the Internet (Source: Reuters

WhatsApp has become the easiest mode of communication, which is why billions of users now choose it to disseminate news from various sources without verifying their credibility. Restricting fake news on WhatsApp is one of the top-most priorities that the Facebook-owned company is tirelessly making efforts towards in India, as well as other countries including Brazil. A new message is now reportedly floating on WhatsApp with a rather alarming tone for a ‘Martinelli’ video. Several Twitter users posted screenshots of what looks like a warning message for the users – and people are forwarding it out of their concern for their families, friends, and close ones.

The WhatsApp message that has reached many users, as reported by The Independent, is cautioning them of a threat that can hack their phone. The message reads – “If you know anyone using WhatsApp you might pass on this. An IT colleague has advised that a video comes out tomorrow from WhatsApp called Martinelli do not open it, it hacks your phone and nothing will fix it. Spread the word.” While the source of the message is unclear, its rampant spread in WhatsApp chats and group chats has irked many users while others think they have done their duty by forwarding it to family and friends.

Another version of the message says – “WhatsApp Users WARNING !! I have been advised to pass this on to those who,like me, use WA: Ignore a video called ‘martinelli’ which might arrive via WA as it will irrevocably hack your phone. Also – equally ignore any request to update to ‘WhatsAppGold’ – this is a severe VIRUS.” This shows that there are two pieces of information being circulated on WhatsApp. The first one asks users not to pay attention to a ‘Martinelli’ video that could potentially ‘irrevocably’ hack their phone while the other part tells them to ‘equally’ ignore the update request for WhatsApp Gold.

While the first part of the message is a hoax, the second part is true. WhatsApp Gold is a modded version of WhatsApp that has been available for a pretty long time. It’s not an official version, however, it gives users the power to change themes and customise the interface. But inevitably, WhatsApp Gold also hoards a lot of suspicious links and advertisements that may steal user data. The messages about WhatsApp Gold claim offering various premium features, however, when users click on the link, they are taken to nefarious websites.

The hoax was busted by a tweet posted by Spanish Police containing a screenshot of the message along with the statement in Spanish, the English translation of which says – “Go through #WhatsApp this message warning about the “Martinelli video” # Stopbulos, do not share it.” Essentially, this tweet dates back to 2017, which means that the hoax message is not new and has been doing rounds on the Internet since then, as per a report by Snopes. This also shows that the shelf life of fake news is not as short-lived as we might expect. Once generated, fake news can travel to extreme ends of the world for a much longer time, creating disturbances among people at the least.

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