Attacks exploiting RealPlayer zero-day in progress

Attackers are exploiting a zero-day vulnerability in RealPlayer in order to infect Windows machines running Internet Explorer, Symantec said late last week. The security company issued an alert that rated the threat with its highest possible score.

According to a warning issued to customers of its DeepSight threat network, Symantec said an ActiveX control installed by RealNetworks' RealPlayer program is flawed. When combined with Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser -- which relies on ActiveX controls to extend its functionality -- the bug can be exploited and malicious code downloaded to any PC that wanders to a specially crafted site.

Only systems on which both RealPlayer and IE have been installed are vulnerable.

Symantec ranked the attack as a "10" on its urgency scale because it has confirmed that attacks are being conducted in the wild; those attacks have resulted in malicious code downloaded to victimized PCs. The only bright spot: "We are not currently aware of widespread exploitation of this issue," the company's warning read. In another section of the advisory, it listed just two IP addresses that it has found hosting exploits of the RealPlayer bug.

Multiple versions of RealPlayer install the ActiveX control, including the current 10.5 and the beta of Version 11. RealNetworks has not released a fix, but Symantec said it had informed the media player's maker of the bug.

"Attacks that exploit this issue may get delivered to a victim through various means, most typically, though, this style of attack is carried out through malicious Web content," said Symantec. "For example, the exploit could be embedded in the HTML of advertisements that are published on trusted Web sites, or could be embedded as an IFrame in a compromised Web domain."

Symantec also referenced a blog that had posted some information about the RealPlayer vulnerability. The blogger, identified only as Roger, claimed that the NASA space agency has warned workers not to use IE because of an unspecified problem with RealPlayer.

Roger quoted from what he claimed was a NASA bulletin. "The malware appears to be spreading through a large variety of common and highly-respected Internet sites," the NASA warning reportedly said. "However it does not appear these sites are themselves infected. The affected sites are serving solely as a mechanism to attract potential victims." NASA's public affairs team at the Ames Research Center in northern California was not available for comment.

Until RealNetworks releases a patch, Symantec said the best advice it can give is to disable the vulnerable ActiveX control by setting its "kill bit." To do that, however, requires editing the Windows registry, a task most users shy away from.

More information will be posted to this page on the SecurityFocus Web site, which Symantec operates, when it is available.

RealNetworks was not available to answer questions about when it would patch the player or whether it would issue an advisory of its own.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?