A security vulnerability has been found in WinRAR, a file archiver and compressor utility for Windows that is estimated to be used by more than half a billion users. The vulnerability, if exploited, allows remote attackers to execute system specific code to compromise a computer.
A proof-of-concept exploit for WinRAR SFX v5.21 has been published. Iranian researcher Mohammad Reza Espargham reported the vulnerability to Full Disclosure, a popular forum for disclosure of security information. "The vulnerability allows unauthorised remote attackers to execute system specific code to compromise a target system," he said.
The vulnerability is said to affect all versions of WinRAR SFX, making its users extremely prone to attacks. Security firm MalwareBytes has independently confirmed the existence of the critical vulnerability in the said application.
The vulnerability, if exploited, allows a remote attacker to execute malicious code when a victim tries to unzip an SFX archive file, a type of RAR file that is often used to safeguard executable files. "Basically, the attack uses the option to write HTML code in the text display window when creating a SFX archive," writes MalwareBytes.
What makes the vulnerability, which has been flagged as critical, even more alarming is the fact that it requires very low user interaction. If the affected file is open, the malware could compromise the device or network. As of now, the vulnerability is yet to be patched.
Which is why you should be extra careful while handling any SFX archive, and probably not open an SFX file that you have received from an untrusted source. This is a good rule to follow for any file on the Internet of course, and even more so for self-executing files like exe and SFX. WinRAR developer RAR Labs in the meantime has responded to the issue, and said, "Executable files are potentially dangerous by design. Run them only if they are received from a trustworthy source. WinRAR self-extracting (SFX) archives are not less or more dangerous than other exe files."