Adobe Investigating New Vulnerabilities in Reader

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2009-04-27 Print this article Print

Adobe is investigating two new reported remote code execution vulnerabilities in Reader 8 and 9. The flaws have been demonstrated on Linux and are likely to affect other platforms.

Adobe said it is investigating reports of a new vulnerability in its PDF Reader program.

The Adobe report refers to a single vulnerability report on SecurityFocus, but in fact there are two similar reports there, both credited to "Arr1val." Both include proof-of -concept Javascript code.

Both vulnerabilities are reported as affecting Adobe Acrobat Reader 8.1.4 and 9.1. Arr1val tested them on Linux, not other platforms, but it's highly plausible, based on the reports and the proof-of-concept code, that they are portable to other operating systems. The actual exploits, which are called shell code, are not likely as portable, as the details of an exploit are often platform-specific.

SecurityFocus calls both "Boundary Condition Errors." For both it says that "[a]n attacker can exploit this issue to execute arbitrary code with the privileges of the user running the application or crash the application, denying service to legitimate users." The first is titled Adobe Reader 'getAnnots()' Javascript Function Remote Code Execution Vulnerability and the second Adobe Reader 'spell.customDictionaryOpen()' JavaScript Function Remote Code Execution Vulnerability.

The proofs of concept are very similar. Both use NOP slide/heap spray techniques to fill memory with shell code to execute once the exploit is triggered. Both exploits are simple invocations of methods on the "this" object in the script.

Adobe responded to the reports on SecurityFocus with impressive speed, probably in response to complaints about slower responses in the past. The Adobe Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT) blog says that it will have an update once it gets more information.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.


Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel