If you are a Windows user that is searching for a file compression tool for your computer, then you have probably looked into WinRAR as a viable option. If you have Windows, or even MacOS or Linux now, you might already have WinRAR downloaded onto your computer.
Unfortunately, there has been recent speculation into the safety merits of this software. This article will delve into the security merits of each version of WinRAR to ultimately decide whether or not it is a safe addition to your Windows, MacOS, or Linux personal computer.
What is WinRAR?
WinRAR is a file archiver utility developed for Windows by Eugene Roshal. It is a type of software known as trialware, or shareware, as it is initially provided free of charge to its users. WinRAR is capable of compressing, encrypting, packaging, and backing up the files on your computer, creating and unpacking files in the RAR or ZIP file formats.
It is one of the most effective tools for efficient file transfer, faster e-mail transmission, and data storage organization. Although the software was initially developed for Windows exclusively, there have been iterations of the software released for MacOS, Linux, and even Android.
With its effectiveness as a product, and its multi-system availability, WinRAR has reportedly garnered over 500 million users. Although most of these users have no complaints, there are a growing number that have complained about a security bug that exists in certain versions of WinRAR that makes it vulnerable to outside attacks.
What is the Safety Concern with WinRAR?
As mentioned in the preceding section, WinRAR is a multifaceted file archiver utility that extracts archived files in the RAR and ZIP file formats. However, WinRAR supports a variety of other compressed file formats, including one called ACE.
The safety concerns many users have reported with WinRAR are a result of its ACE file support. WinRAR contains a security bug that allows a .RAR file you download to automatically extract an .exe file to your Startup folder.
That .exe file would be automatically triggered the next time you sign on to your personal computer and could possibly infect your computer with malware. A recent example of this was a bootlegged copy of Ariana Grande’s album “Thank U, Next”, released under the filename “Ariana_Grande-thank_u_next(2019)_.rar” in 2019. This .RAR file exploited this Startup folder bug in WinRAR’s code and sent executable malware straight to the Startup folder of any user who downloaded the album.
This specific malware was eventually identified to contain a Trojan that was designed to steal users’ online banking information. Researches at McAfee have identified over 100 unique exploits of WinRAR by March 2019, so this is a major safety concern for users that have entrusted WinRAR onto their computer.
Which Versions of WinRAR are Not Safe?
WinRAR has fortunately been through several updates since March 2019, its most recent stable release for Windows occurring in June 2020. In these updated versions of WinRAR, the software has put an end to enabling ACE file support.
If you are using the 5.70 version of WinRAR or any subsequent version, then you are using a secure version of the software.
Every version of WinRAR preceding the 5.70 version is vulnerable to the attacks detailed in the previous section. If you downloaded a version of WinRAR to your Windows, Linux, or MacOS personal computer prior to 2019, then you are using a version of WinRAR that is susceptible to these attacks.
Is WinRAR for Windows 10 Safe?
All versions of WinRAR that are 5.70 or greater are safe for any and all operating systems. However, there might be different versions available to users of differing operating systems. WinRAR was developed specifically for Windows users, so the latest version of WinRAR will always be released to Windows users first.
Windows currently employs the 5.91 stable release of WinRAR, which is safe to download. Some users have reported encountering potential virus flags while downloading newer versions of WinRAR on their Windows computers, however, this is likely an issue with your anti-virus software and not with WinRAR. Be sure to download WinRAR from the publisher’s site though, as versions of WinRAR available on third-party sites might contain malware.
Is WinRAR for MacOS Safe?
As mentioned in the preceding section, versions of WinRAR that are 5.70 and beyond are safe for all operating systems. Windows users possess the latest version of WinRAR, but MacOS users are not far behind with the 5.90 version being available since March 2020.
It is important to note that WinRAR is only available in command line interface for MacOS users, so if you are a relatively novice computer user it might be worth your time to examine other file compression and archival tools for your computer that support graphical interfaces.
Is WinRAR Safe for Other Operating Systems?
The 5.90 version of WinRAR is also available for Linux users exclusively in the command line interface. The 5.80 version of WinRAR is the latest version available for Android users, but it is not exclusively offered in a command line interface. These versions are all secure but ensure that you are downloading WinRAR from the publisher’s site so as to avoid downloading malware disguised as the malware.exe file.
If you are searching for secure file compression and archival tool for your computer, then WinRAR is a safe bet. If you have WinRAR already downloaded onto your computer, ensure that it is a version of WinRAR that has been updated in 2019 or after.
WinRAR is an incredibly effective tool for archived file transfer and data storage organization that is worth having on your computer for business or personal reasons.
However, if you are still weary of WinRAR, there are plenty of other file compressions and archival software options available for Windows, MacOS, or other operating system users. One worthy option is 7-Zip, which is available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux users alike. There are plenty of comparative articles on the merits of WinRAR versus 7-Zip, but as for their safety, both are sufficient.