back to article Attacks exploit unpatched weakness in Adobe apps

Criminals behind the notorious Zeus crimeware package have begun exploiting an unpatched hole in the widely used portable document format to install malware on end user computers. The booby-trapped PDF documents arrive in emails that purport to contain a billing invoice, according to a post from M86 Security Labs. If the user …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are Mac OSX vulverable - if so, how to stop?

    In your article you said:

    QUOTE"Users in the meantime can protect themselves by turning off the automatic launch feature. To do this, go to Edit > Preferences and click on Trust Manager in the left pane. Then, uncheck the box for "Allow opening of non-PDF file attachments with external applications.""EndQUOTE.

    What should Mac OS X users do to ensure they are safe?

    Or are they safe in any case? (Many Mac users don't need to run Adobe Reader, because OS X has in-built PDF capabilities that do very well, usually)

    1. Aaron 10
      Jobs Halo


      Apple uses their own PDF engine which does not have this vulnerability.

  2. CaptSmegHead

    Gordon Bennet...

    here we go again.

    adobe = fail

  3. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Users can protect themselves

    "Users in the meantime can protect themselves by turning off the automatic launch feature. "

    should read:

    "Users can permanently protect themselves by uninstalling the bloated PoS."

  4. Stone Fox
    IT Angle

    wow. a security hole in an adobe product.

    can we have a "where's the news?" icon to go with the "Where's the IT angle?" button please?

  5. AlistairJ

    Executable content


    Who the fuh?


  6. chr0m4t1c

    Shurely shome mishtake

    Adobe doesn't ship software with vulnerabilities and bugs in it.

    I know, because they told us a couple of months ago.

    1. John I'm only dancing

      @ shurley shome mistake

      Because, just like MS, they are features.

  7. jjq

    An Alternative Perspective -- Scientific Accountability

    I've been following Dan Goodin's articles on PDF vulnerabilities

    quite closely for some time now and I would like to offer an

    alternative perspective. Specifically, instead of bashing PDF

    for its security weaknesses, I believe the format should be

    appreciated for the many scientific possibilities it offers, especially

    in light of the ongoing climategate scandal.

    Before I elaborate on my viewpoint, I should note that I do take

    PDF vulnerabilities seriously. For instance, the recent security advisory:

    lists me as having identified CVE-2010-0197. And Quirk2003,, is an example of a PDF

    that includes a built-in security FAQ. It does so, because the document

    includes /Launch actions, which currently have Stevens in a froth.

    However, for added security, its /Launch actions are only active

    when the document is viewed using a custom PDF pre-processor.

    Therefore, while I would not bill myself as a security expert,

    I like to think I have a grasp of the main issues.

    My real interest lies with the concept of self-substantiating,

    journal articles for injecting rigour into the practical aspects

    of computational science. Imagine electronic documents that

    preserve the look-and-feel of a traditional scholarly publication,

    while containing embedded examples that allow the interested reader

    to sample the reported work, first hand, right down to its smallest detail.

    Well, Quirk20003 shows that such documents can be prototyped using PDF.

    Why bother? Some of you may have read a recent story in The Guardian,

    by Darell Ince: ``If you're going to do good science,

    release the computer code too'' see:

    It is an open secret in scientific computing that programming standards

    are extremely poor and desperately need improving.

    As luck would have it, I posted the last comment on Ince's article

    and so it has its own url,

    But the downside to posting the last comment is that I got no feedback.

    Undeterred, I contacted Ince directly. Then following an exchange of

    e-mails and a phone call, he pointed me in the direction of

    ``The Fourth Paradigm'' -- scientific discovery

    through data intensive processing, see .

    And it was while annotating this Microsoft-sponsored

    book that I stumbled upon CVE-2010-0197 .

    Now as an undergraduate, I lived in Fitzwilliam St, Cambridge,

    directly opposite to where Darwin once lived, and so I'm fully aware

    of my own limitations as a scientist. However, given my document

    dabblings, it pains me to see the advocacy of a new scientific paradigm,

    distributed as a PDF, in which the authors cannot provide the

    critical reader with worked examples to show their ``computational thinking.''

    The situation is analogous to a mathematician claiming to have a wonderful proof

    but only being prepared to discuss the proof in vague generalities.

    It jars, because as my annotated version shows:

    PDF allows for a much richer dialogue between technical author and

    technical reader.

    Here I need to make it very clear that my document dabblings are just that,

    dabblings, and anyone who downloads jjq-on-4th-paradigm.pdf will soon

    see the limitations of my work. The scientific question, however,

    is not whether I'm right or wrong. Nor has it anything to do with

    format wars, PDF vs XML vs A.N.OTHER. It has to do with accountability,

    scholarship, and maintaining standards of critical thinking.

    This week the US Library of Congress announced a project to

    archive Twitter which, while I have grave misgivings about the target

    material, shows that society takes its archiving duties seriously.

    For me, a much more exciting initiative is the Federal Research

    Public Access Act (FRPAA):

    which today, after a number of false starts, was introduced

    in the US House of Representatives, not six miles from where

    I'm composing this message.

    The challenge I would like to leave readers of Dan Goodin's articles

    is that the next time you are tempted to bash PDF for having unnecessary

    and dangerous features: stop, and imagine a world where taxpayers,

    educators, and students could download and try out ``computational classics.''

    These are entites that rival literary ones in terms of their cultural significance and

    would help inspire generation after generation to the intellectual joys

    of computer-based science. Then imagine what document features would be needed

    to support said computational classics.

    This year, The Royal Society (the world's oldest scientific organization still

    in existence) is celebrating its 350th anniversary.

    So do your imagining in the year 2360 when the society celebrates

    its 700th anniversary. By then, the inherent weaknesses of current

    journal papers, for reporting computational work, not withstanding

    their strengths, will be apparent to even a kindergarten student.

    It is also to be hoped that by then society will have a better

    handle on how to deal with computer security.

    Yes security is important, but it is also important for document formats

    to evolve so as to support rigorous computer-based science.

    James J. Quirk

    16th April 2010

    Alexandria, VA

    1. OldDogNewWalk

      By gum lad

      You need an editor.

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