What is an ActiveX video codec?
Fake ActiveX Video Codecs
Web sites use ActiveX controls to provide additional functionality such as playing videos and music in embedded media players. Media players often need video codecs in order to work with certain file types. However, don’t be fooled into downloading an ActiveX video codec. A notorious Trojan, Zlob, tricks users into downloading an ActiveX video codec. This Trojan and others like it are usually found on Web sites offering racy videos. The user is told that in order to view the video, the ActiveX video codec must first be installed. In addition, new Trojans are targeting Macintosh users. In particular, the Jahlav-C Trojan prompts users, including Macintosh users, to install an ActiveX video codec in order to view pornographic content.
Once installed, these Trojans can carry out nefarious deeds, putting your computer at risk for further infections, privacy breaches, hacker intrusions, computer errors, and so on. Most reputable computer security software products protect against these known Trojans and their variants, but not all do. Plus, new malware is regularly developed.
Legitimate Video Codecs
Legitimate video codecs do exist; however, they do not generally arrive as ActiveX controls. Your Web browser likely already has the basic ActiveX video player controls enabled such as Shockwave Flash and Windows Media player. Let’s take a look at Windows Media Player as an add-on. If you go into Internet Explorer, click Tools, and then click Manage Add-ons, you’ll likely see that Windows Media Player is enabled. The Windows Media Player add-on allows Windows Media Player to act as a universal media player for most standard video formats on Websites. When you watch videos using this ActiveX control, dozens of video file types are supported including both streaming and non-streaming video.
Troubleshooting Video Codecs
Should you encounter an unsupported file type, you may need to update your local copy of the media player that you are using, such as Windows Media Player, for a new video codec that provides this additional support.
If you want to see what video codecs are currently installed with Windows Media Player, go to Help and click on About Windows Media Player. Now, click the Technical Support Information link. You’ll see a list of all installed audio and video codecs as well as decoders, plugins, services, and binaries. Note: If you can’t see the Help menu item, right-click an empty area of the Media Player’s taskbar and choose “Show classic menus.”
You can also set up Windows Media Player to download codecs automatically by going to Tools > Options and clicking the Player tab. Check the box that says, “Download codecs automatically.”
While you may use other media players for watching videos, most media players have similar updating features. When in doubt update the actual media player’s codecs rather than accepting an invitation from a random website to install an ActiveX video codec.