CVE-2022-38392: Janet Jackson song and crashing Windows XP notebooks

[German]It's a bizarre story that Microsoft developer Raymond Chen recently made public: Notebooks with Windows XP crashed when the pop song Rhythm Nation  by Janet Jackson from 1989 was played. The background was that the hard disks used resonated and caused the crashes due to read/write errors. There is now even a CVE number CVE-2022-38392 for this issue.


Chenheard the story from a colleague in Windows XP product support. A major computer manufacturer discovered that playing the music video for Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" was causing certain laptop models to crash. Microsoft was forced to investigate this in its labs. It was discovered that playing the music video also crashed the laptops of some of its competitors. During the tests, it was also discovered that a nearby laptop also crashed. However, no video was played on this notebook at all.

Resonances as the root cause

During the analysis, it turned out that the song contained one of the natural resonance frequencies of the 5400 rpm hard drive installed in many notebooks at the time. This caused the surfaces of the discs (the rotating disks known as platters) in the hard drive to vibrate. This caused the read/write heads to produce errors, which then resulted in a Windows XP crash.

An audio filter helps

The notebook manufacturer got around the problem by inserting a custom filter into the sound card driver's audio pipeline that detected and removed the interfering frequencies during audio playback. Today, hardly anyone should remember this episode – if they come across the filter properties in question in the driver. In the meantime, notebook hard disks are also installed that work with 5,900 and more revolutions per minute and have other resonance frequencies. Furthermore, SSDs without mechanical components are usually installed today – the problem does not occur there.

I already came across this story on Golem a few days ago. And then a blog reader pointed out in the discussion area that there is even a CVE number CVE-2022-38392 about it (thanks for that). The text of the CVE reads: A certain 5400 RPM OEM hard drive, as shipped with laptop PCs in approximately 2005, allows physically proximate attackers to cause a denial of service (device malfunction and system crash) via a resonant-frequency attack with the audio signal from the Rhythm Nation music video.

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One Response to CVE-2022-38392: Janet Jackson song and crashing Windows XP notebooks

  1. Valmik Persad says:

    Good morn.

    It's refreshing to hear these anomalies are public now.

    I've been researching this since the onset of Midi & Digital Audio (Autumn 1987).

    Before the early days of Personal Composer, Cakewalk for Dos, IBM music feature fb01, etc.

    Today the toys are almost the same as the toys were in the Sci Fi movies back then.

    This occurance of frequency affecting matter goes back to the 19th century or before.

    The musical application is different in today's world. Songs and sounds are everywhere, partly due to the extensive research into my Multi Media Controller ( MMC ) for the development of Multimedia that started to " happen " in the industry.

    I did this concurrently from 1987 onwards. It was a difficult time for both myself and the simpleton minded public.

    The IBM executives weren't able to fully grasp nor understand my creation and signed it to their " Confidentially Agreement ". This unfortunately created an undesirable financial environment.

    IBM's alliance with AMD and Apple vs. The alliance between Intel & Microsoft coupled with extensive industrial espionage, precisely over multi media, destroyed the lives of several pioneers, of today's technological world.

    My research was included in what is known as MMX today. And today No tech device exist without it, multi media is a staple, a necessity, since the pandemic, AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE, in the post pandemic world as well.

    I believe it is beyond a reasonable amount of time, for my research and development of early multi media must now be remunerated with damages, costs and interest.

    Thank you

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