Patch it or Scratch it: RealPlayer

Securing your computer isn’t just about making sure the doors and windows into your system are latched and patched: Sometimes, it makes more sense to simply brick up some of these entryways altogether — by getting rid of programs you no longer use.

There are several programs that I’ve mentioned recently and put in this category (Java, QuickTime, Adobe Reader). Allow me to add another program to this list: RealPlayer. If you have this program installed, ask yourself this question: When was the latest time you used it?

When I try to answer that question, I have to think back about three years ago when I wanted to watch a live, streaming video on some U.S. government Web site that didn’t offer any other formats. If I recall correctly, I was able to stream the file with VLC player, a free media player that also can play most RealPlayer content. Before that, I think the last time I got close to using RealPlayer was after my dad died in 2003. I was going through his PC and found that he’d copied to his hard drive a ton of old CDs that I used to hear him listen to quite a bit. I was getting ready to copy them to a removable USB drive (on some Windows 98 systems this is not such an easy task), but when I discovered they were all in Real format, I decided just to wipe the system clean.

If, however, you think you still need this program, then it’s time to update it. RealNetworks has shipped a critical update for RealPlayer on all supported operating systems. The latest version fixes at least 11 serious flaws that could let an attacker seize control over your system just by getting you to view a poisoned .rm file. The latest version is available here.

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