Adobe is under a zero-day attack yet again. The attack this time targets a vulnerability that leaves room for a hacker to crash Adobe Reader and Acrobat and take control of the victim's machine. Adobe announced plans to issue an out-of-band patch for Windows-based computers by next week.
"The reason for addressing this issue quickly for Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.4.6 for Windows is simple: This is the version and platform currently being targeted," said Brad Arkin, senior director of product security and privacy for Adobe, in a blog post.
"All real-world attack activity, both in this instance and historically, is limited to Adobe Reader on Windows. We have not received any reports to date of malicious PDFs being used to exploit Adobe Reader or Acrobat for Macintosh or UNIX for this [common vulnerability and exposure] (or any other CVE)."
Adobe: Upgrade Now
Adobe said the risk to Macintosh and UNIX users is significantly lower than for Windows users. The company will address the flaw in Adobe Reader and Acrobat X and earlier versions for Macintosh as part of the next quarterly update on Jan. 10,. An update to address this issue in Adobe Reader 9.x for UNIX is also planned for Jan. 10.
"Focusing this release on just Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.x for Windows also allows us to ship the update much earlier," Arkin said. "We are conscious of the upcoming holidays and are working to get this patch out as soon as possible to allow time to deploy the update before users and staff begin time off. Ultimately the decision comes down to what we can do to best mitigate threats to our customers."
Arkin went on to encourage any remaining users still running Adobe Reader or Acrobat 9.x -- as well as older unsupported versions -- to upgrade to Adobe Reader or Acrobat X. Arkin said Adobe put a tremendous amount of work into securing Adobe Reader and Acrobat X and noted there has not been any malware identified that is effective against a version X install.
Mac Users Not Safe
How serious is the threat? Paul Henry, a forensic and security analyst at Lumension, said it is serious indeed. He has been seeing attackers actively exploiting the vulnerability using spear phishing e-mails, reportedly to government and military.
"For a Windows platform, corporate IT can mitigate this threat by installing the patch that's coming out from Adobe. They may also consider using an alternate product," Henry said. "Cyber criminals will take advantage of this vulnerability where it exists in all platforms, though users are more numerous. You can't say it's not a threat to Mac and Linux users. It is, especially for targeted malware."
Based on his research, Henry reports that Adobe continues to be a favorite threat vector for cyber criminals. Of course, he said, Java is very rapidly emerging as a serious vector as well.
"That has arisen due to the same problem that caused Adobe to become such a favored attack vector," he said, "which is simply that users are not patching their outdated code."