Software vendor Adobe says it is investigating claims that instructions for exploiting a previously unknown critical security hole in the latest versions of its widely-used PDF Reader software are being sold in the cybercriminal underground.
The finding comes from malware analysts at Moscow-based forensics firm Group-IB, who say they’ve discovered that a new exploit capable of compromising the security of computers running Adobe X and XI (Adobe Reader 10 and 11) is being sold in the underground for up to $50,000. This is significant because — beginning with Reader X— Adobe introduced a “sandbox” feature aimed at blocking the exploitation of previously unidentified security holes in its software, and so far that protection has held its ground.
But according to Andrey Komarov, Group-IB’s head of international projects, this vulnerability allows attackers to sidestep Reader’s sandbox protection. Komarov said the finding is significant because “in the past there was no documented method of how to bypass” Adobe Reader X’s sandbox to run code of the attacker’s choice on the target’s computer. The Russian firm produced the following video which they say demonstrates a sanitized version of the attack.
The exploit does have some limitations, Komarov said. For example, it can’t be fully executed until the user closes his Web browser (or Reader). And so far, they have only seen the attack work against Microsoft Windows installations of Adobe Reader.
Adobe spokeswoman Wiebke Lips said the company was not contacted by Group-IB, and is unable to verify their claims, given the limited amount of information currently available.
“Adobe will reach out to Group-IB,” Lips said. “But without additional details, there is nothing we can do, unfortunately— beyond continuing to monitor the threat landscape and working with our partners in the security community, as always.”