Researchers from Check Point Security Labs have discovered an annoying new hacking technique that uses security weaknesses in the popular media players. The exploit makes use of fake subtitle files to the violation of a user’s defense, at which point it is possible togain full control over the system.
Hackers can apparently create malicious subtitle files that execute code when they are loaded in a media player, according to the report, published by Check Point. The company estimates that hundreds of millions of users with free software such as VLC, Kodi, Popcorn Time, and Stremio could be at risk.
The subtitle files are generally seen as innocent, and as such, they are rarelyvetted to be too strict by media players or antivirus software. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that there is little standardization, with more than 25 different formats, with different features and capabilities that are currently in use.
Check Point has also determined that the subtitle repositories to be manipulated to help with the distribution of malicious files to users. Subtitles submitted by attackers have to be stimulated in the rankings, making it more likely that they will be downloaded by users, and is selected by media players that you can download these files automatically.
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After his discovery of these vulnerabilities, Check Point announced that the problem thedevelopers responsible for the media players that were tested. Some had already taken steps to address the issues, while others are still looking into the situation. At the time of writing, VLC and Stremio officially updated with a solution, while a fixed version of Popcorn Time is here, and a fixed source code release of Kodi is available here. There are still concerns that other media players can also be affected.
The key here is that the subtitle files are exploited becausethey now widely regarded as innocent. Once users and developers to let their guard down, malicious hackers see their opportunity and that is the reason why the work of organisations such as the Check Point is so important.