1/4/2010
07:20 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary

New Threats Target Adobe PDF Zero Day

Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader are vulnerable and under attack from a new, sophisticated zero-day Javascript exploit according to the SANS Internet Storm Center.



Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader are vulnerable and under attack from a new, sophisticated zero-day Javascript exploit according to the SANS Internet Storm Center.Just last week, Antone Gonsalves wrote this story, Adobe To Surpass Microsoft As Hacker Target. If this week is any indication, it just might turn out to be true.

In case you have missed it, on December 15, 2009 Adobe acknowledged a critical vulnerability in Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.2 and earlier versions that could cause system crashes and enable an attacker to take control of at-risk systems. Adobe isn't expected to release a patch until January 12. Adobe's advisory is here.

While attacks against this flaw were previously underway, the SANS Internet Storm Center recently analyzed a new attack against this flaw, in depth. The attack code in the malicious PDF is only 38 bytes long. For the blow-by-blow analysis of the flaw, read SANS' analysis here.

I'd expect more attacks to be on the way, both before the January 12 patch, and after. You can't rely on your anti-virus software as, according to SANS, only 6 out of 40 anti-virus vendors detect the exploit code.

So what to do? I'd follow SANS Internet Storm Center's Advice:

Since this exploit has not been patched yet, I would like to urge you all to, at least, disable JavaScript in your Adobe Reader applications. We are getting more reports about PDF documents exploiting this vulnerability, and it certainly appears that the attackers are willing to customize them to get as many victims to open them as possible. Also keep in mind that such malicious PDF documents can go to a great length when used in targeted attacks - the fake PDF that gets opened can easily fool any user into thinking it was just a mistakenly sent document.

If we are to judge the new year by sophistication the attackers started using, it does not look too good.

And, I'd add, don't open PDFs from strangers.

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