Fixing dangerous MIDI files

Ever visited a Web site that suddenly started playing music through your computer speakers? It may be annoying, but you can always turn down the volume. And it's harmless, right? Maybe not.

Researchers at EEye Digital Security Inc. recently discovered two big holes in Windows' music playback technology. The flaws, which Microsoft rates as "critical," could allow a hacker's code to run amok on your PC by exploiting a contaminated music file. The hacker could then take over your PC and do something nasty, like delete your files.

The problems lie in the way that Windows plays back a common type of music file called a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) file. Unlike an audio file, a MIDI file contains a string of code that tells a synthesizer (such as the ones in most PCs) how to play a piece of music.

Microsoft Corp.'s DirectX technology, which handles playback for audio and video in Internet Explorer and in Windows Media Player, also plays MIDI files. Microsoft realized that it had left two unchecked buffers in versions of DirectX from Windows XP all the way back to Windows 98. This weakness could let a miscreant send a malformed MIDI file containing too much data to one of the buffers. And for that to happen, you just have to visit a booby-trapped Web site or open (or preview) an HTML e-mail message with an embedded link. This triggers the infected MIDI file to download to your PC. When the buffer overflows, DirectX malfunctions and the hacker's code starts to execute.

Take care of the hole by grabbing the latest version of DirectX, 9.0b. Head to the Microsoft bulletin, "Unchecked Buffer in DirectX Could Enable System Compromise," for more details and a link to the patch, and go to for EEye's bulletin.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

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?