Looking for a foreign language subtitle for your favorite movie? Be careful.
Check Point Software Technologies estimates that roughly 200 million video players and streaming platforms are vulnerable to a hacking scheme that utilizes corrupted subtitles to gain access into personal computers.
Here’s how it works: The affected subtitles are downloaded from popular subtitle sites and then used on media players like VLC, Stremio, Kodi and Popcorn Time. When the subtitles run with the media players, hackers gain complete access to users’ computers.
The hacking scheme is a novel one, since subtitle files are usually just seen as “benign text files,” according to Check Point, meaning anti-virus software doesn’t thoroughly examine them. The corrupted subtitles are manipulated so as to “rank” well on subtitle sites, making users believe they’re not only safe, but high quality.
A wide variety of subtitle formats, and different ways in which streaming services interact with them, creates a greater number of vulnerabilities, according to Check Point.
“We estimate there are approximately 200 million video players and streamers that currently run the vulnerable software, making this one of the most widespread, easily accessed and zero-resistance vulnerability reported in recent years,” said Check Point’s blog on the hack.
Popcorn Time, Kodi, VLC and Stremio have all created fixes to prevent against the hack. However, according to Check Point, they’re not all available yet.
In the video below from Check Point, two users are shown downloading subtitles before a hacker has complete access to their desktop.
With total control over a victim’s computer, hackers have free rein to do what they please, including stealing personal information or planting malicious software.