VLC shortcut icon on a Windows desktop

“The sky is falling; uninstall VLC right now!” That’s the advice some websites are providing. But the purported VLC flaw is overblown—and, according to VLC’s developers, may not even be a real risk.

This commotion all started with the publication of CVE-2019-13615, which is marked as a “critical” vulnerability with a score of 9.8 out of 10. VLC’s developers aren’t happy they weren’t even contacted before the publishing of this flaw.

But it’s bad, right? That’s 9.8 out of 10—as security flaws go, it sounds like an incoming nuclear strike. This flaw could reportedly result in remote code execution, which is bad. Attackers could gain control of your system through a bug in VLC.

As the CVE explains, this flaw requires playing a malformed MKV file. In theory, if you download a malicious MKV file from the web and run it, it could compromise VLC—although no one claims this has ever happened in the real world. Also, the macOS version of VLC doesn’t seem to be affected.

So, even if this flaw is as bad is it appears, you just have to be careful about MKV files—don’t download untrusted MKV files and play them in VLC until a patch is released. Stay away from MKV if you’re pirating media.

But not so fast! VLC’s developers say they can’t even reproduce the issue, suggesting that there are serious problems with the original exploit report.

At the end of the day, it’s probably a good idea to stay away from downloaded MKV files until VLC patches this flaw. But that’s all you would really need to do, and even that’s being kind of paranoid.

As VLC’s developers explain on the VideoLAN bug tracker:

“Sorry, but this bug is not reproducible and does not crash VLC at all.” -Jean-Baptiste Kempf

“If you land on this ticket through a news article claiming a critical flaw in VLC, I suggest you to read the above comment first and reconsider your (fake) news sources.” -Francois Cartegnie

“This does not crash a normal release of VLC 3.0.7.1” -Jean-Baptiste Kempf

Update: Here’s VideoLAN’s more lengthy response. According to the developers, there isn’t a flaw in the current VLC software at all.

Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor in Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for nearly a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6 and Chicago's WGN-TV, and his work has been covered by news outlets like The New York Times and the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than 500 million times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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