On Sept. 12, 2023, readers asked us via email about messages that were being virally shared on WhatsApp that mentioned a purportedly dangerous "hack." According to the messages, this "hack" was circulating on the platform as a file called "Seismic Waves Card," and was disguised as pictures of the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Morocco on Sept. 8.
As of Sept. 12, the death toll in the Moroccan earthquake was being reported as more than 2,900 people, with thousands more injured. Those numbers were expected to continue to rise.
We reached out to WhatsApp by email to request comment regarding this matter. After this story was published, a spokesperson for the company said of the rumor, "This is false."
One of the most popular versions of the viral message being shared was as follows:
They are going to upload some photos of the Moroccan earthquake on WhatsApp. The file is called Seismic Waves CARD, don't open it or see it, it will hack your phone in 10 seconds and it cannot be stopped in any way. Pass the information on to your family and friends.
DO NOT OPEN IT. They also said it on TV.
A reader also sent in the following screenshot:
The message appeared to have been translated from another language. For example, the inclusion of the words "don't open it or see it" likely meant "don't open it or view it."
The only item of interest that we found was a screenshot of what looked to be a file named, "Seismic Waves CARD.pdf." The screenshot was posted (archived) on X (formerly Twitter). The user identified the "hack" as a Trojan virus:
عارفين شنو الي في الصور هذا؟
تعالو اقولك هذ نوع من انواع الTrojans منتشر اليومين #احذر ومنه اسمه (Seismic Waves Card Browser Hijacker)
الي من هدفها انها تدخل علي المتصفح حقك و تخربه او تخرب كل
حاجة فيه بالإضافة انها بتسحب معلومات حساسة من جهاز ك pic.twitter.com/DpHMA03gDo
— عبدالله الحسين (@Abdullahv24) September 12, 2023
Needless to say, we do not recommend clicking on or opening suspicious links or files. That goes for suspicious items that appear in messaging apps, emails, text messages, and websites.
In looking for further reporting, we turned to Bufale.net, a fact-checking website based in Italy, which reported of the purported "hack" that it looked to be nothing more than a hoax.
TechARP.com published a detailed breakdown of the message and even showed examples of the same "Seismic Waves Card" being mentioned in the past with names of other earthquakes.
ThatsNonsense.com also provided reporting about why they believed the "hack" warning didn't really vibe with how WhatsApp's functionality operates.
For further reading, we previously reported about one example of Facebook users experiencing a hack incident. It was known as the "look who died in an accident" Messenger scam.
For readers who are interested, The Associated Press published information about how to help victims of the Moroccan earthquake.
"Fantasiosa Seismic Waves CARD su WhatsApp con foto del terremoto in Marocco." Bufale.net, 12 Sept. 2023, https://www.bufale.net/fantasiosa-seismic-waves-card-su-whatsapp-con-foto-del-terremoto-in-marocco/.
Gamboa, Glenn. "How to Help Those Affected by the Morocco Earthquake and Libya Flood." The Associated Press, 11 Sept. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/morocco-earthquake-how-to-help-donations-fc2f9c27b4a7bdc2d10135fb81b20ad2.
Haley, Craig. "Viral Warning about 'Seismic Waves CARD' Virus Spreads Online - Fact Check." ThatsNonsense.com, 12 Sept. 2023, https://www.thatsnonsense.com/viral-warning-about-seismic-waves-card-virus-spreads-online-fact-check/.
Metz, Sam. "What to Know about the Morocco Earthquake and the Efforts to Help." The Associated Press, 12 Sept. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/morocco-earthquake-marrakech-fe5a0fbe71646f9b1b4f6a85889b414a.
Wong, Adrian. "Can Morocco Earthquake Seismic Wave Card Hack Your Phone?!" TechARP.com, 12 Sept. 2023, https://www.techarp.com/internet/morocco-seismic-wave-card/.
Sept. 14, 2023: This report has been updated with word from a WhatsApp spokesperson who told us of the rumor, "This is false."