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The 'Malicious' Wallpaper that Sent Phones into a Reboot Loop Was Unintentional, Photographer Says

"I didn't know the format would do this. I have an iPhone, and my wallpaper is always a photo of my wife."

- Gaurav Agrawal, photographer

Earlier this month, we reported the existence of a particular wallpaper that sent Android phones into a reboot loop, requiring most users to factory reset their phone just to escape the never-ending boot cycle, thus losing all their data.

St Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana, photographed by Gaurav Agrawal in August 2019

It was first suspected that it may have stemmed from malicious intent, but it soon became apparent that that was not the case. Gaurav Agrawal, the photographer behind the offending (albeit gorgeous) photo, has stepped up to clarify that it was an Adobe Lightroom-related issue that caused the glitch.

Basically, Lightroom has 3 colour-mode options to export a file with, and it so happened that the one Agrawal chose did not sit well with certain Android devices. He was unaware of the issue, as he had never tried it - as stated in the extremely endearing quote above, he uses a photo of his wife as his wallpaper instead.

Gaurav Agrawal
"I hoped my photograph would have gone 'viral' for a good reason, but maybe that's for another time."

- Gaurav Agrawal, photographer

According to BBC, Ken Munro and Dave Lodge from security firm Pen Test partners have revealed the reason behind the glitch:

"As digital photographs have improved in quality, phones need to check what the image 'colour space' is to work out how to display it properly.

"It's how a phone knows how to display exactly the right shade of green, for example.

"There are different ways of defining the colour space. Some spaces have specialist uses in graphic design, so sometimes you'll see images that aren't in the usual 'Standard RGB' format. It's also possible to deliberately create images that have more colour information than some devices can handle.

"What's happened here is that the way some phones deal with these cases has gone wrong.

"The phone crashes because it doesn't know how to deal with it correctly, and the software developers probably hadn't considered this might happen."

Well, now that we are aware of the glitch, hopefully phone developers will devise a way to prevent such problems reoccuring in the future.


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