It may read like a tabloid headline, but according to a blog post, Janet Jackson’s 1989 song “Rhythm Nation” has the power to crash laptops. (opens in new tab) On Microsoft’s devblogs, the subsequent vulnerability was CVE database.
This story comes from a Microsoft devblog post (opens in new tab) Raymond Chen recalls a story shared by a colleague back in the days of Windows XP – 2005 or so. Music from Rhythm Nation (a moderate hit for Jackson, reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100 for which he earned a Grammy nomination for its production). I found that sometimes another laptop that was placed crashed.
As you can imagine, this was very puzzling. Eventually someone applied that massive brain to the problem and realized that the song contained the resonant frequency of the victim’s 5,400 RPM hard drive, rather than the response from the laptop to the quality of the music. I figured it out, so I played a song close to it. The platter wobbled, hit the drive head, and crashed.
As I’m sure you remember from high school, resonance frequency is the property of a material that causes an increase in vibration amplitude when a force is applied at a particular frequency, and when a force is applied at another frequency is not seen in frequency.
Manufacturers of susceptible laptops have responded to the problem by creating custom digital filters that remove frequencies into their audio systems, at least negating the problem of janking Jackson pumping laptops themselves. The problem is gone, as is his 5,400 RPM hard drive in the laptop.
That is, until Chen published his memoir on his blog on August 16th. This seems to have put something in gear or possibly sent out a pulse at the resonant frequency and caused it. new addition (opens in new tab) Added to the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures registry on August 17th. This vulnerability has been assigned a reference number and has been approved by security vendor Tenable. (opens in new tab).