Researchers Uncover Highly Exploitable WinRAR Bug That Puts 500 Million Users at Risk

More than 100 unique exploits of a WinRAR bug have been identified since security researchers discovered a 19-year-old vulnerability in the file compression system.

Antivirus products may not immediately recognize persistent malware installed via the code execution flaw in the Windows-based utility, which was initially uncovered by Check Point. In a recent blog post, McAfee researchers noted that attackers are mostly targeting U.S. users, hoping to reach them before they install a patch that was released late last month.

WinRAR Bug Puts 500 Million Users at Risk

With a series of screenshots, McAfee illustrated a typical exploit that leveraged an illegal version of “thank u, next,” the hit song by pop singer Ariana Grande. Threat actors set up a payload containing malware in the Startup folder while a version of WinRAR containing the flaw extracted the MP3 file to a download folder.

User Account Control does not apply in this case, the researchers added, which means a user wouldn’t get a signal that the payload was installed. Once the system reboots, the malware starts running.

WinRAR is a popular tool with an estimated 500 million users, which means the scope for threat actors to pursue exploits is particularly large. It’s also common to see bootlegs such as the Ariana Grande song widely available on underground forums and torrent sites, which can provide plenty of opportunity to take advantage of the flaw.

No, Thank You: How to Avoid the WinRAR Bug

While the best recourse for most users is to simply avoid suspicious downloads and apply the patched version, WinRAR 5.70, that may not be enough to protect entire organizations. According to IBM experts, there is often a disconnect between IT security teams and operations teams when it comes to information related to critical software patches.

With the right patch posture reporting tools, security professionals can conduct a comprehensive assessment of devices that may be vulnerable to something like the WinRAR bug, then filter and sort data based on the most appropriate remediation priority. Given how quickly threat actors are trying to capitalize on this flaw, there’s no time to lose.

Contributor'photo

Shane Schick

Writer & Editor

Shane Schick is a writer, editor and speaker who focuses on how information technology creates business value. He lives...