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Adobe Exploit Sheds Light On Bigger Risk Management IssueAdobe Exploit Sheds Light On Bigger Risk Management Issue

Batten down the hatches: It's <a href="http://www.darkreading.com/security/app-security/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=217200514">zero-day exploitation time</a> for Adobe Reader and Acrobat. But according to Adobe's <a href="http://blogs.adobe.com/psirt/2009/04/update_on_adobe_reader_issue.html" target="new">blog post</a> yesterday, "we are currently not aware of any reports of exploits in the wild for this issue."

John H. Sawyer

April 29, 2009

2 Min Read

Batten down the hatches: It's zero-day exploitation time for Adobe Reader and Acrobat. But according to Adobe's blog post yesterday, "we are currently not aware of any reports of exploits in the wild for this issue."

Is that the kind of statement you would feel comfortable taking to your CIO or CISO regarding the risk of exposure?I don't understand why vendors make statements like this, especially when exploit code exists for at least one affected platform (i.e., exploit for Adobe 9.1 and 8.1.4 on Linux). If you've read advisories from other software companies, including Microsoft, they use the same wording.

I suspect it's to alleviate customers' concerns, but it seems misguided to me. If we look at reports like the Verizon Data Breach Incident Report or the CSI Security Survey, we'll see there is a rise in targeted malware attacks. The smart and experienced attacker will target a vulnerability with custom malware that is highly obfuscated, with little chance of being detected by current antimalware solutions. So that begs the question: Do you really think Adobe is going to know if the vulnerability is being exploited in the wild?

That said, the definition of "wild" has an impact on the validity of the statement. Does "wild" include targeted attacks or only mass exploitation through common channels, such as e-mail spam. Or does it mean inclusion in Websites and comment spam? I'm thinking the latter because the likelihood of finding the targeted attack in a timely matter and reporting it to Adobe (or some other vendor in a similar situation) during this initial period of investigation and notification are slim.

I'll ask you again: Would you feel comfortable telling your CIO or CISO about a currently unpatched vulnerability in Adobe Acrobat products in which exploit code for Linux exists but no exploitation in the wild has been reported -- so you're likely safe? I don't think so. History should be the teacher; I suspect we'll see reports of exploitation "in the wild" by the end of the week. Batten down the hatches and spend some time checking out PDF viewing and editing alternatives. It might not hurt to have a standby waiting in the wings.

John H. Sawyer is a senior security engineer on the IT Security Team at the University of Florida. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent the views and opinions of the UF IT Security Team or the University of Florida. When John's not fighting flaming, malware-infested machines or performing autopsies on blitzed boxes, he can usually be found hanging with his family, bouncing a baby on one knee and balancing a laptop on the other. Special to Dark Reading.

About the Author(s)

John H. Sawyer

Contributing Writer, Dark Reading

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