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PS4 message hack allegedly bricks the console

Change your messaging options, just to be on the safe side

Sony PlayStation buttons artwork Samit Sarkar/Polygon
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

PlayStation 4 users are saying a text-message exploit is bricking their consoles, requiring a factory reset to get the unit working again.

Though numerous users have said they’ve been hit, the attack isn’t officially confirmed and Sony hasn’t given any kind of comment. To be on the safe side, users are suggesting that others change their message receipt settings so that only friends (or, more drastically, no one at all) can send them messages.

As I’ve had friend-only messaging enabled for a while, I can’t tell if this threat/exploit is legitimate, or if this is the way to thwart it. Numerous users in the PS4 subreddit say they’ve been hit, though, and many describe the same effects. The message attack appears to be similar to others seen in mobile platforms, where a message containing a string of characters (or a specific one) can shut down the hardware.

To be on the safe side, users can manage their messages and messaging preferences from a web browser or the PlayStation smartphone app (Android and iOS). These methods are thought the be the best way to avoid opening or triggering the exploit and crashing the system.

Otherwise, users may go into the account management options from the console itself. That is found in the Settings option on the XMB, then the Account Management tab, and then Privacy Settings. The option to change is under Personal Info/Messages and users should set that to friends only or no one.

In this thread, currently atop the PS4 subreddit, a PS4 owner says someone used the attack to brick everyone on his team (except the one player who had their message settings on private). In a screenshot provided by the user, a question mark in a square is shown in the message text, suggesting this is a character or a string the system can’t handle.

Meantime, we have reached out to Sony for the customary comment. Several other news outlets have picked up and reported on the threat. But being the weekend, it’s possible we don’t hear anything back until tomorrow, or after a firmware patch is rolled out.