Adobe Patches Reader, Acrobat Security Vulnerabilities

Adobe Systems swats several bugs in Adobe Reader and Acrobat, including a zero-day flaw that is being targeted by attackers. The Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.2 and 8.1.7 updates include the beta version of a new update and deployment tool, as well as a new capability enabling users to block specific JavaScript API calls.

Adobe Systems has swatted a zero-day bug affecting Adobe Reader and Acrobat that was being exploited in targeted attacks.

The vulnerability, described by Adobe as critical, is one of several Adobe fixed today in the Oct. 13 security update. According to Adobe, the vulnerability is a heap overflow issue. A successful exploit can corrupt memory and be used to remotely take over a system.

Adobe has said the attacks were targeting Windows, though the vulnerability affects all users of Adobe Reader and Acrobat versions 9.1.3 and earlier on Windows, Unix and Mac systems.

"All users of Adobe Reader or Acrobat will need to update their software with today's release because these updates include fixes for the most critical kind of bugs," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations for nCircle. "Several of these could let an attacker take remote control of a user's computer."

The update includes more than two dozen fixes for a variety of security issues. In addition, "The Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.2 and 8.1.7 updates will include a new update deployment tool, initially shipping in a passive, beta state, which will be functional for Acrobat and Reader in the near future," according to the Adobe PSIRT (Product Security Incident Response Team) blog.

"We're delivering it to end users as part of today's updates in this state so that we can enable a follow-on, invite-only, external beta program," blogged Adobe's Steve Gottwals. "Even though the new updater ships in a passive state, we have the ability to selectively activate it for end users invited into the beta program, which will allow us to test a variety of network configurations encountered on the Internet in order to ensure a robust update experience. ...

"Also added to the products, as of today's Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.2 and 8.1.7 updates, are two new changes in security user interface and control," Gottwals continued. "We are moving more security awareness into the gold bar, which runs across the top of the document in the application chrome ... Now, when JavaScript is disabled, the gold bar will alert the end user and provide further options."

The company also introduced the Adobe Reader and Acrobat JavaScript Blacklist Framework, which offers customers more control over the execution of specific JavaScript API calls.

"The purpose of the new JavaScript Blacklist Framework is to allow Adobe to protect customers against attacks that target a specific JavaScript API call," Gottwals wrote. "In this case, end users and administrators can add that JavaScript API call to the blacklist, and block it from executing. Organizations can even block specific JavaScript API calls and keep their end users from overriding that decision."

In response to outcry about the patching process, Adobe earlier in 2009 moved to time its security updates so that they match up with Microsoft's Patch Tuesday releases. Adobe also began reviewing legacy code as part of its development process when updating its software.