Risk
2/14/2013
09:01 AM
50%
50%

Adobe Zero-Day Attack Bypasses Sandbox

Adobe fumbles on the security front by not enabling -- by default -- technology built into its PDF Reader and Acrobat that would have blocked the current attacks.

The in-the-wild exploits being launched against the latest versions of Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat applications are the first known attacks that can bypass the sandbox that Adobe built into the software.

The sandbox technology, added to Reader more than two years ago, was designed to ensure that even if attackers exploited a bug in Adobe's software, they wouldn't be able to gain access to the rest of the PC. That defense has now been defeated.

The zero-day attacks against Reader and Acrobat, which target two previously unknown vulnerabilities, were first publicly disclosed by security firm FireEye on Tuesday. Adobe confirmed the same day that it had already begun to investigate the attacks, which use malicious PDFs that are emailed to targets, as well as the bugs they exploit.

"These vulnerabilities could cause the application to crash and potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system," according to an Adobe security advisory issued Wednesday.

[ Hackers' business model seems to be the same as everyone else's. See Cybercrime 2.0: It's All About The Money. ]

Interestingly, the latest version of Adobe's software -- Reader XI and Acrobat XI -- for Windows does have a built-in defense, called Protected View, that blocks the current zero-day attacks. Unfortunately, the feature isn't enabled by default. In addition, no such feature is present in version 11 of Reader or Acrobat for Mac OS X, which is vulnerable to the attacks. Similarly, versions 9 and 10 of the Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat, for both Windows and Mac OS X, lack the feature, and are also vulnerable to the attacks.

An Adobe spokesperson said a less-restrictive feature, Protective Mode, is enabled by default, but Protected View is not enabled by default in Reader XI and Acrobat XI for Windows. That apparent mistake is drawing criticism from security experts. Eugene Kasperksy, CEO of Kaspersky Lab, likened the deactivated-by-default security feature to "car airbags that work only if owners flip a switch."

The Protected View defense came to light Wednesday, when Adobe detailed mitigation techniques for the zero-day attacks. "Users of Adobe Reader XI and Acrobat XI for Windows can protect themselves from this exploit by enabling Protected View," according to a security bulletin released by Adobe. "To enable this setting, choose the 'Files from potentially unsafe locations' option under the Edit > Preferences > Security (Enhanced) menu." Similarly, enterprise administrators can activate Protected View via a registry tweak, then using Microsoft's Group Policy to distribute the setting.

Windows users running older versions of Reader or Acrobat could upgrade to the latest version to mitigate the vulnerabilities. Meanwhile, another mitigation technique would be to avoid using Adobe Reader and Acrobat, and read or edit PDF files using an alternate application, such as the Preview application built into Mac OS X, or standalone applications from Foxit and Solid Documents, which respectively offer PDF conversion and editing software for Windows and Mac. As noted by Ars Technica, while this software likely also contains exploitable bugs, attackers don't seem to currently be targeting them.

To date, FireEye and Adobe have declined to release the exploit code being used by attackers, but FireEye Wednesday did offer some additional details about the attack, noting that the malicious PDF files have been weaponized with JavaScript. "The JavaScript embedded in the crafted PDF is highly obfuscated using string manipulation techniques," according to a blog post by FireEye researchers. "Most of the variables in the JavaScript are in Italian. The JavaScript has version checks for various versions of Adobe Reader ... and it creates the appropriate shellcode based on the version found."

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2015-4231
Published: 2015-07-03
The Python interpreter in Cisco NX-OS 6.2(8a) on Nexus 7000 devices allows local users to bypass intended access restrictions and delete an arbitrary VDC's files by leveraging administrative privileges in one VDC, aka Bug ID CSCur08416.

CVE-2015-4232
Published: 2015-07-03
Cisco NX-OS 6.2(10) on Nexus and MDS 9000 devices allows local users to execute arbitrary OS commands by entering crafted tar parameters in the CLI, aka Bug ID CSCus44856.

CVE-2015-4234
Published: 2015-07-03
Cisco NX-OS 6.0(2) and 6.2(2) on Nexus devices has an improper OS configuration, which allows local users to obtain root access via unspecified input to the Python interpreter, aka Bug IDs CSCun02887, CSCur00115, and CSCur00127.

CVE-2015-4237
Published: 2015-07-03
The CLI parser in Cisco NX-OS 4.1(2)E1(1), 6.2(11b), 6.2(12), 7.2(0)ZZ(99.1), 7.2(0)ZZ(99.3), and 9.1(1)SV1(3.1.8) on Nexus devices allows local users to execute arbitrary OS commands via crafted characters in a filename, aka Bug IDs CSCuv08491, CSCuv08443, CSCuv08480, CSCuv08448, CSCuu99291, CSCuv0...

CVE-2015-4239
Published: 2015-07-03
Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) Software 9.3(2.243) and 100.13(0.21) allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (device reload) by sending crafted OSPFv2 packets on the local network, aka Bug ID CSCus84220.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Marc Spitler, co-author of the Verizon DBIR will share some of the lesser-known but most intriguing tidbits from the massive report