Critical Flaw Found in Windows Media Player

Officially, your users shouldn't be downloading Windows Media Player skins at work. Realistically, some of them probably are, and it's worthwhile to pay attention to a critical new security vulnerability patched by Microsoft Wednesday night.

The bulletin, Microsoft's 17th of 2003, fixes a flaw that could allow an attacker to run arbitrary code on computers running Windows Media Player 7.1 or Windows Media Player for Windows XP (version 8.0). Windows Media Player 9 Series isn't affected by the issue. Other versions aren't supported and weren't tested.

"Skins" are custom overlays that change the appearance of Windows Media Player. While the product ships with some skins already, it also allows third parties to create and distribute their own, and that's where the flaw comes in.

"A flaw exists in the way Windows Media Player 7.1 and Windows Media Player for Windows XP handle the download of skin files. The flaw means that an attacker could force a file masquerading as a skin file into a known location on a user’s machine. This could allow an attacker to place a malicious executable on the system," the Microsoft bulletin notes.

Microsoft Security Bulletin MS03-017 is available at

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.