Hackers exploit unpatched Adobe Reader bug

Expect attacks to spread before Adobe issues patch, say researchers

Hackers have been exploiting a critical bug in Adobe Reader, the popular PDF-viewing software, for at least nine days, researchers said Friday, but a patch may not be ready for another three weeks.

"We reported this to Adobe on Feb. 12," said Kevin Haley, a director in Symantec's security response group. "That was the same day that we had a sample of the exploit."

Attacks have been spotted in Asia, primarily in Japan, said Haley, as well as in a few other countries. But their small number led him to characterize them as "targeted," meaning the victims had been specially selected.

"But this [bug] is not hard to exploit," he added, indicating that Symantec expects the attacks to spread.

So does Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Network Security. "If the history of Adobe Reader vulnerabilities shows us anything, it's probably just a number of days before this takes off," Storms said.

In a security advisory released Thursday, Adobe acknowledged the bug and the ongoing attacks, and said that both Reader and Acrobat, an advanced PDF-creation and edit application, are vulnerable. Versions 7, 8 and 9 of both programs, and on all platforms, contain the flaw, the company confirmed. Adobe Reader, by far the more popular of the two applications, is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

Adobe plans to patch Reader 9 and Acrobat 9 -- the most current versions -- by March 11, and will then follow with fixes for Reader/Acrobat 8 and Reader/Acrobat 7, in that order. It did not spell out a timetable for updates to Versions 7 and 8, however.

In the meantime, both Haley and Storms expect hackers to take advantage of the bug, possibly by integrating new attack code into the multistrike exploit kits that are frequently used by cybercriminals to launch attacks against users who are duped into visiting malicious Web sites. "There's no reason to think that that won't happen," he said. "Reader is a very popular application."

The in-the-wild attacks trigger the bug with a Trojan horse that Symantec has pegged "Pidief.e," which then installs several additional components to open a backdoor on the compromised computer. That backdoor can later be used to inject additional malware into the machine.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags adobebugs

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?