In recent years, we have seen the emergence of new attack vectors that made the Internet even more dangerous for users. Cyber crooks continue to think outside the box, allowing them to develop threats nobody thought were possible before. Today, images can carry malicious code, and ransomware can force victims to infect others if they don’t want to pay the ransom, among other new techniques.
And now, even the seemingly harmless subtitle file can facilitate system breaches.
Last month, Israel-based security software firm Check Point said in a blog post that it discovered adware components in a large number of subtitle files used for popular streaming apps like VLC, Popcorn Time, and Kodi. These files, which span more than 25 formats, were found to be inscribed with malicious code that can enable cyber criminals to take full control of a system.
The exact number of infections is still unknown at this point, but Check Point said that users of these popular media players, estimated at around 200 million combined, are currently vulnerable to the attacks.
Injecting malicious code into subtitles is actually not a new idea. In 2003 a Trojan file that security firms named the Kill Bill Trojan was discovered, although no successful were reported so the idea was not considered that much of a threat at that time.
An often overlooked attack vector
Subtitle files are generally considered harmless, especially since they are sourced from sites that are highly trusted. These kinds of websites employ highly complex algorithms that rate subtitle files submitted by authors depending on how accurate they are; the higher the rating, the more likely a user downloads the file.
According to Check Point, cyber crooks have found a way to manipulate the algorithms used by the sites for verifying subtitles, which makes it possible for malicious subtitle files to rank higher. With this, the chances of users becoming infected will increase.
In addition to this, media-playing apps and security software consider all subtitle files to be safe, leaving the systems of unwitting users vulnerable to infections. Upon successful infection, hackers can then do all sorts of things–take full control of the system, install programs secretly, recruit the computer into a botnet, and use the computer’s resources, among others.
Stay safe with a malware security VPN
If you are a user of media playing applications like VLC, Kodi and Popcorn Time and you frequently download subtitle files from third-party sources, then you may want to shore up your system’s defences.
Security software and your firewall are not enough. If you want to stay safe against malicious subtitles, improve your security by installing a malware security VPN such as Hotspot Shield on your device.
Hotspot Shield protects your online browsing sessions from malware attacks facilitated on infected sites by blocking these sites from being accessed by you. You are also notified in case the site you are about to open contains components that might be dangerous, warning you of a potential attack.
If you want to learn more about the security features of this malware security VPN, visit the Hotspot Shield website and read the Hotspot Shield blog. You can download the free VPN for Windows, Mac OS, Android and iOS here.
Download the best malware security VPN and improve your security against malicious subtitles and other types of malware today!