It reads: “Hackers are going to start circulating a video on WhatsApp that shows how the Covid19 curve is flattening in Argentina. The file is called ‘Argentina is doing it’, do not open it or see it, it hacks your phone in 10 seconds and it cannot be stopped in any way. Pass the information on to your family and friends. Now they also said it on CNN.”
Is this true? Is there such a video?
No evidence video exists
Messages about the supposedly dangerous video have been shared worldwide, but there is no evidence the actual video exists.
We could find no mention of it on CNN.
Googling “Argentina is doing it”, “video”, “CNN” and “Covid-19” and other keywords only led to other fact-checks debunking the viral message.
The Courier Daily, a US news website, warned readers they “should avoid spreading any such message without checking its authenticity”.
The site also recommends that readers don’t forward claims like this, as they can cause panic.
Argentinian fact-checking organisation Chequeado also checked the claim and found it to be false. (Note: The article is in Spanish.)
Horacio Azzolin, prosecutor for the national specialised cybercrime prosecution unit in Argentina, told Chequedo the unit had not received any legitimate reports of a video like the one described hacking any phones.
“If a harmful hidden program can be run, these programs are designed to act on specific operating systems, such as Android or iOS, not all at once and, therefore, could not attack the majority of cellphones,” Azzolin told Chequeado, in a machine translation from the Spanish.
A video like it would not be able to hack every phone operating system.
Details in message red flags
Chequeado also spoke to Claudio Caracciolo from ElevenPaths, the cybersecurity unit for Spanish telecoms company Telefónica.
Caracciolo reportedly said: “There is no reported WhatsApp vulnerability that indicates that the messaging client could be compromised due to a video.”
Caracciolo also said “the 10 seconds does not make sense” because “if an application automatically compromises the phone it does so instantly”.
Boom Live, an Indian fact-checking organisation, also debunked the claim. They said a red flag is that the message “asks people to forward it to their friends and family”.
How to avoid malware
In November 2019, Africa Check debunked a similar message about a video that would hack your phone when opened. This one also doesn’t seem to exist.
As we reported then, Cambridge News has good tips on protecting your phone from malware:
- Always make sure you have the latest version of software and antivirus installed, for increased protection.
- Be careful when downloading new apps as rogue ones can appear in legitimate app stores as well as unofficial online stores.
- Always check reviews and ratings as well as developer information before downloading a new app.
- If your battery suddenly starts draining unusually fast, it may be a malware problem.
- Make sure to check your phone bill online periodically, and more often than once a month. This will help you keep tabs on any suspicious activity.
To ensure your phone doesn’t get hacked, don’t open unknown files from people you don’t know or trust. – Taryn Willows
For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false
A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”. What should you do? First, don't delete!
Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.
Africa Check teams up with Facebook
Africa Check is a partner in Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.
The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.
You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.