Audio files figure in latest Microsoft vulnerability

Two security alerts were issued Wednesday concerning vulnerabilities in Nullsoft Inc.'s WinAmp music player and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP operating system that can be exploited using corrupt audio files.

The flaws allow MP3 or Windows Media files containing malicious code to be introduced into a user's PC, allowing an attacker to run damaging code on that machine, according to security company Foundstone Inc., in Mission Viejo, California. The corrupt files would sound identical to unmodified music files, the company said.

The buffer overflow security vulnerability in Windows XP can cause the operating system to run suspect code when its file-browsing application, Windows Explorer, plays a music file. The vulnerability lies in the Windows Shell, and Microsoft's Windows Media Player is not affected by the problem, Microsoft said in an advisory posted on its Web site. It characterized the problem as "critical" and issued a patch which can be found at

An unchecked buffer allows an attacker to overwhelm a computer by sending it more information than the program can handle. Once overwhelmed, the machine becomes vulnerable to just about any code or instructions sent to it by an attacker.

The attacker could create corrupted MP3 or WMA files and host them on a Web site or on some other shared network, or send them to a victim via an HTML (hypertext markup language) e-mail, Microsoft said. A user could launch the malicious code simply by moving a mouse pointer over the icon for the file on a Web page or on a local disk, the Redmond, Washington, company warned. Opening a shared folder where the file is stored, as well as opening or previewing a contaminated e-mail, can also set off the problem.

WinAmp has a similar flaw, affecting versions 2.81 and 3.0 of its WinAmp player, that allows code to run when certain multimedia tags in MP3 and WMA files are loaded with too much data. Specifically, the WinAmp 2.81 overflow problem is with the handling of the Artist ID3v2 tag upon immediate loading of an MP3 file, while two Winamp 3.0 overflows are present in Media Library's handling of the Artist and Album ID3v2 tags, Foundstone said.

Foundstone has alerted Nullsoft to the problem and Nullsoft has released fixed versions of Winamp 2.81 and Winamp 3.0, which can be found on its Web site at

Join the newsletter!


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.

Laura Rohde

PC World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

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.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?