For seemingly unknown reasons—and with unknown triggers—the Samsung Messages app on Galaxy S9, S9+, and Note 8 devices is sending photos via MMS to random contacts, according to multiple user reports on Reddit, as well as the official Samsung user support forum. Troublingly, the app itself seems to have no record of the messages occurring at all, but the occurrences of the issue are visible through users' account usage histories on their carrier website.
The first user report claims that a Galaxy S9+ owner had his entire photo gallery sent to his girlfriend at 2:30 AM, with no record of it on the phone itself, but that the message could be seen from his account usage log on T-Mobile. In the same thread, another poster indicated that both his phone and his wife's phone (both Galaxy S9+ models) have done the same thing. A Galaxy Note 8 user indicated the same issue.
This user report from the Samsung support forum for the Galaxy S9+ indicates that scheduled messages are being sent prematurely, scheduled messages are being sent to the wrong threads, and that "Messaging incorrectly displays scheduled messages as 'sent' when, in fact, the other party has not received them."
SEE: Mobile device computing policy (Tech Pro Research)
The common points between these user reports appear to be having T-Mobile USA as their mobile carrier, as well as Samsung Messages version 5.0 or higher. It also appears that the recipients of messages are also T-Mobile subscribers on Samsung phones. Many of the user reports on Reddit indicate that the messages are being sent to the last person they sent a message to, though the Samsung support forum user implied that was not the case.
The consensus behind the situation appears to be an issue related to the implementation of RCS between Samsung phones and T-Mobile. RCS, or Rich Communication Services (RCS) is a replacement for SMS spearheaded by Google, which all four major US carriers have signed on to supporting. RCS is backward-compatible with SMS, though has inconsistent branding across the world. In the United States, it is commonly referred to as "Advanced Messaging," while it is called "joyn" or "Message+" in most of the rest of the world.
Naturally, this behavior should cause considerable consternation to Galaxy phone owners. Given the ubiquity of smartphones, and the near-essential role they play in the daily lives of people, the likelihood that some of the photos on the phone could be considered not safe for work is rather high, particularly as increasing numbers of people keep one phone for personal and work use. Aside from that point, the potential data use which sending dozens of photos would incur would also potentially be problematic for users who are not on unlimited data plans.
For enterprise users and professionals, the photo-sending bug could also create a risk of accidental product image leaks, or of business plans getting out into the open. This serves as a further reminder for users to be aware of what company images they may be keeping on their phones.
Users are advised to disable all permissions to the Samsung Messages app and use an alternative SMS app until the issue has been corrected.
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
- The Samsung Messages app on Galaxy S9, S9+, and Note 8 devices is sending photos via MMS to random contacts, according to multiple user reports.
- The consensus behind the situation appears to be an issue related to the implementation of RCS between Samsung phones and T-Mobile.
- 10 ways to raise your users' cybersecurity IQ (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- Weird Samsung Galaxy bug? Phones are quietly texting photos to random contacts (ZDNet)
- Samsung Galaxy S9: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- Apple and Samsung finally settle US patent dispute (ZDNet)
- Google believes RCS could be Android's secret weapon in war against iMessage (TechRepublic)
James Sanders is a Tokyo-based programmer and technology journalist. Since 2013, he has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research.