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Adobe Reader attack out in the wild

Flaw has been used in attacks since Friday

Adobe is investigating new reports that hackers are attacking a previously unknown bug in the latest version of the company's Reader and Acrobat software.

"This afternoon, Adobe received reports of a vulnerability in Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.2 and earlier versions being exploited in the wild," Adobe wrote in a post to its Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT) yesterday. "We are currently investigating this issue and assessing the risk to our customers."

Adobe had few details on the reported problem. "As soon as we have additional details, we will update the PSIRT blog," a spokeswoman said.

Adobe learned of the attack on Monday, said Brad Arkin, Adobe's director of product security and privacy. "Three different partners in the security community shared samples of the same attack with us within a few minutes of each other this afternoon," he said.

The criminals are exploiting this flaw by sending malicious PDF files to victims, according to the volunteer-run malware tracking group Shadowserver.

"This is legit and is very bad," Shadowserver said in a post to its website late Monday. Shadowserver could not be reached immediately for comment.

Shadowserver said that several "tests have confirmed this is a 0-day vulnerability affecting several versions of Adobe Acrobat [Reader] to include the most recent versions of 8.x and 9.x. We have not tested on 7.x, but it may also be vulnerable".

The vulnerability is due to a bug in the way Reader processes JavaScript code, according to Shadowserver. The group recommends that concerned users disable JavaScript within Adobe's software as a work-around for this problem. (This can be done by un-checking the "Enable Acrobat JavaScript" in the Edit -> Preferences -> JavaScript window)

Security experts say that running malicious JavaScript code within Reader has become a favourite hacking technique this year.

The attack has been used by cybercriminals since at least Friday, but has not seen any widespread use, Shadowserver said. "Expect the exploit to become more wide spread in the next few weeks and unfortunately potentially become fully public within the same timeframe."

Most antivirus products do not yet detect the attack, Shadowserver noted.

With Reader and Acrobat installed on most of the world's PCs, the products have become an increasingly attractive target for computer hackers who take advantage of flaws in the system to run unauthorized programs on victims' PCs.

See also:

PC security advice


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