Microsoft Word Users: Watch Out For RTF Files

rtf file microsoft fix

If you get an RTF file from someone in your email, don’t open it. Don’t even glance.

That was part of a warning from Microsoft recently to users of supported versions of Microsoft Word. The company says that hackers have found a vulnerability in the system. Opening RTF documents (short for Rich Text Format) – even previewing them – could corrupt your computer, and make it part of a larger hacking network. Microsoft says so far it is aware only of targeted attacks on users of Microsoft Word 2010.

In an official post in Microsoft’s Security TechCenter, the company warned:

“The vulnerability could allow remote code execution if a user opens a specially crafted RTF file using an affected version of Microsoft Word, or previews or opens a specially crafted RTF email message in Microsoft Outlook while using Microsoft Word as the email viewer. An attacker who successfully exploited the vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the current user.”

Microsoft knows that attacks are occurring but has no permanent solution yet. The company says users should avoid opening RTF files until a fix for the vulnerability has been made available. There is a way you can get at least a limited view of these files if it’s absolutely necessary. Microsoft outlined a “workaround” on its Security Research and Defense Blog recently (image above).

But the company warns that the consequences of opening or even previewing corrupted RTF files could be dire. A Business Insider report warns opening a booby-trapped file could give hackers control of your computer. Once under a hacker’s control, the computer could be used to send out spam or even as part of an online fraud operation.


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional and online media, he is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown.

5 Reactions
  1. Hackers are really creative. Too bad they don’t use their skills in positive ways or they could be really helpful.

    • I’ve always said the same thing.

      • I’ve thought about that too. But, it’s part of human nature unfortunately. These are brilliant minds that could not just use their skills for to help people, but to help themselves.

  2. Oh thanks for the heads up. I used to open RTF files with Word. I didn’t know that they can be that harmful. It’s amazing what hackers can do nowadays. Sometimes, they don’t even care about the money. All they care about is the information that they can extract from you. But still, it is still as bad.

  3. Maybe time to publish a update to the article now that the date has changed to the 2nd of April ?

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