Skip to comments.Windows Media Player Vulnerability Info (MUST READ!!!)
Posted on 12/31/2004 3:14:06 AM PST by goldstategop
PC World has a pair of articles about a potentially dangerous new development on the spyware/adware front: WMA (Windows Media) files being used to install adware and spyware. See:
Risk Your PCs Health for a Song? http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,119016,00.asp
Protect Yourself From Audio Adware http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,119063,00.asp
In short, the well-known copyright management/protection firm Overpeer has figured out how to install adware through Windows Media files. The technique exploits features of the Windows Media DRM functionality to launch special Internet Explorer windows that display popup ads and that also attempt to download and install adware/spyware. This happens when the user opens the Windows Media file for playing.
Some might be tempted to dismiss this new method for distributing adware and spyware as a risk only for those using P2P networks. That snap judgement would be a mistaken and misguided one, though. The P2P file sharing angle on this story is a red herring.
The problem here involves the DRM features of Windows Media, and those features create a new and potentially very effective means for adware vendors to push unwanted software on unsuspecting users who have no interest whatsoever in using P2P networks to trade unauthorized music files.
I should caution readers that the PC World article, while detailed, is still short on specifics and that we still need more information. That said, users should be advised to take the usual steps to protect themselves against adware and spyware. At a minimum that involves:
locking down Internet Explorer (esp. ActiveX controls, Java applets, and scripting); installing spyware prevention utilities such as SpywareBlaster and SpywareGuard; installing at least two reputable anti-spyware scanners and keeping them updated; keeping your system updated through Windows Update. In addition to the above, PC World recommends tweaking the settings for Windows Media Player:
said by PC World:
* Change windows Media Player setting to give you more warning. Select Tool, Options, Privacy and turn off Acquire licenses automatically for protected content. A dialog box then will warn you each time a protected file attempts to get a license, and it will display the URL from which the file intends to request the license. If you have any doubts about the site, choose No. Changing this setting in Windows Media Player will affect any other players you use that support Microsofts DRM scheme.
Also, it appears that merely switching your default browser to something other than Internet Explorer will not be sufficient to eliminate the threat, as Windows Media Player uses the Internet Explorer engine to open browser windows that function as dialog boxes. Even if youre not actively using Internet Explorer, you should lock it down to prevent its being exploited by rogue WMA files.
If and when more information becomes available, Ill post it to this thread.
Eric L. Howes
To supplement the advice from PC World, you might want to take the following measures:
locking down Internet Explorer (esp. ActiveX controls, Java applets, and scripting); Either lock down the Internet zone (https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/ehowes/www/btw/ie/ie-opts.htm ), use Enough is Enough ( https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/ehowes/www/resource6.htm ), or use IE-SPYAD (https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/ehowes/www/resource.htm ).
installing spyware prevention utilities such as SpywareBlaster and SpywareGuard; http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/spywareblaster.html http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/spywareguard.html
installing at least two reputable anti-spyware scanners and keeping them updated; http://spywarewarrior.com/asw-features.htm#rec
keeping your system updated through Windows Update. http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/
See screenshot below for privacy settings in Windows Media Player 9
For Windows Media Player 10, see these screenshots.
If you have questions about adware, spyware or Windows security, you can post in the Spyware Warrior forums. Please do not post help requests in the blog comments.
thank you, turned that stuff off immediately, haven't had any troubles YET, though.
None here either. And I've got Internet Explorer locked down tight.
Thanks for this posting...nothing like keeping your anti-virus program updated!.......
And anti-trojan scanner too. Ewido Security Suite here updates at least once a day with new definitions.
Done, and thanks for this info.
If you use a personal firewall (I have Sygate Personal Firewall on right now), you'll be amazed at how many programs try to access the internet, and how often. I block them all by default, including Media Player
ping for later
What is the best FREE trojan scanner can I find ( that won't install it's own Spyware of it's own ).
I let all my legitimate programs access the Internet.
Ewido Security Suite. The premium features can be tried for 14 days for free. If you decide you don't want em, keep the scanner and download updates manually. http://www.ewido.net
Can you recommend a free/inexpensive firewall for W2000 on dial-up?
Contact martin for free utilities. He has a list of links.
Try Zone Alarm.
Try Zone Alarm. I personally run Norton Internet Security Firewall, which isn't cheap but is reliable. http://zonelabs.com
Question: Is it sufficient to set IE's security settings on "high"? Is that "locked down"?
thanks for this informative post. you did a great deal of work to include all the screens. it is a person like you that makes others realize what can be done if you are generous. Thanks again.
Dumb question: WTH does "locked down" mean?
I use Spybot and Ad-Aware SE. Each time I use them (about every other day) I check for updates. I downloaded both from download.com.
Set it on high for your restricted zone, medium for the Internet and low for sites you absolutely trust that you can put in your trusted zones tab.
It means its like the equivalent of Fort Knox - no one can get in unless you allow it. So when you install that registry patch - IE Spy-ad you're letting the bad guys know your computer is off limits. I went to Coolwebsearch and nothing happened. That's how effective this particular piece of condom software is in shutting down the scumware pushers' abilities to install unwanted software via drive by downloads behind your back.
WMP uses the Internet Explorer browser settings so if these are secured, just unchecking the "acquire licensing info automatically" box should take care of hackers ability to exploit the DRM channel to install malware on your computer over your objections.
I just finally was able to locate and destroy an executable file that was so "hidden," that all my anti-spyware couldn't find it. UNTIL NOW.
I also recommend Zone Alarm. The free version (note: they will try to convince you to buy the 'pro' version, but for dial-up I think that's overkill...) is available here (click the red "free download" button):
I'm glad you found it helpful- the people who write and propagate that garbage should be publicly horsewhipped.
Ongoing Windows security vulnerability ping!
Zone Alarm or Sygate Personal Firewall. I use SPF as it gives you, the user, more control over what computer ports and/or programs you want to allow or block, that option is only in the paid version of Zone Alarm, but it's available in the freebie version as well as the paid version of SPF.
I'm at a loss as to why anyone would have the Winamp Browser open.
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