Galaxy Z Flip 4 Preorder Quest 2: Still the Best Student Internet Discounts Best 55-Inch TV Galaxy Z Fold 4 Preorder Nintendo Switch OLED Review Foldable iPhone? 41% Off 43-Inch Amazon Fire TV
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you

RealPlayer, Helix users at risk of attack

Media players running on Linux face a new security vulnerability that could leave users open to remote attacks, security experts say.

Popular media players RealPlayer and Helix Player are at risk of a security vulnerability that could let malicious attackers launch remote attacks on a user's system, security experts say.

A flaw has been discovered in RealNetworks' RealPlayer version Gold and Helix Player Gold running on Linux or Unix operating systems, according to a report released Tuesday by the French Security Incident Response Team, or FrSIRT.

Attack code that takes advantage of the flaw, a so-called exploit, has been posted on the Internet, increasing the security risk to users.

The RealNetworks products are vulnerable because of a format string error that occurs when a malformed .rp or .rt file is clicked and players are launched. Malicious attackers can take advantage of the error to take remote control of users' computer systems.

Bug researcher Contex discovered the flaws and notified RealNetworks about the vulnerabilities, but the company has yet to issue a security update, said Thomas Kristensen, chief technology officer for Secunia, a security firm that rates the vulnerability as "highly critical."

Kristensen, pointing to an advisory issued by Contex on the Open Security Group site, noted that the bug researcher was forced to prematurely publish the exploit code.

"Real has been duly informed about the issue and (they) are fixing (it). Sadly, though, it seems someone is trying to pinch my research. As such, I have been forced to release this advisory sooner than hoped," according to a Contex posting. "Until Real gets a new release out, do not play untrusted media with RealPlayer or Helix Player."

Kristensen noted the reasoning behind publishing the exploit code before a patch has been developed.

"By publishing all the details about the vulnerability, it helps people understand they have to be careful when following the links to the media files affected by these vulnerabilities," Kristensen said.

Representatives from RealNetworks were not immediately available for comment.

RealNetworks has issued several security patches for its media players this past year. The latest was in June, when it released fixes for four vulnerabilities in its popular RealPlayer media player.