Flaws revealed in Adobe Version Cue

Two more security flaws were revealed in Adobe Systems software this week, less than two weeks after a reported vulnerability in Adobe Acrobat and Reader.

Two new security vulnerabilities were revealed this week in Adobe Systems's Version Cue software, the second and third security flaws discovered in the company's software in less than two weeks, according to security consulting firm iDefense.

Both flaws allow local attackers to gain root privileges to a machine through Version Cue, the file-version manager in Adobe's Creative Suite software, according to Michael Sutton, director of iDefense Labs at iDefense, a VeriSign company.

One flaw is a "library loading vulnerability" that enables potential hackers to load a custom library by executing a method from the command line of VCNative, a root application in Version Cue, said Rich Johnson, a senior security engineer with iDefense Labs. In this way, someone could take full control of a system and gain root privileges, thus enabling them to introduce malicious code.

The other way someone could gain root privileges through Version Cue is to exploit the log file created when the root application VCNative begins running, he said. The log file is always called the same thing, and if a person "knows what it's called they could put a file in there that would allow redirection of that file to a location of choice, then can override special system files with this," Johnson said.

Though published reports claimed that the flaws affect the most recent version of the suite, Creative Suite 2, an Adobe spokesman said in an interview Tuesday that this is not the case. The flaws only affect the previous Creative Suite release, which came out in August 2003, said Bob Schaffel, senior product manager of Version Cue for Adobe.

Adobe already has issued a patch for both vulnerabilities, which can be downloaded at http://www.adobe.com/support/security/main.html#vcuemac, he said.

The flaws were discovered by an individual who only wanted to be identified by his online code name, "vade79," and were submitted to iDefense through its Vulnerability Contributor Program, Sutton said.

Sutton said the flaws are "far from the sexiest vulnerabilities we've ever seen" since they can only be exploited by local attackers, meaning they already must have access to the machine to exploit the flaws. Also, the flaws only affect versions of Creative Suite for Apple OS X, so there is a "limited user base" that is affected, he said.

Still, the vulnerability risk is made more significant by the fact that the flaws are relatively easy to exploit once a user has access to a machine, and there is already exploit code that could be used to take advantage of the vulnerabilities that has been released publicly, Sutton said. Though he does not know where the code originated, it can be found on the Web site of the French Security Incident Response Team, www.frsirt.com, Sutton said.

With the discovery of the Version Cue vulnerabilities, there have now been three flaws discovered in Adobe's software in less than two weeks. On Aug. 16, Adobe issued its own security advisory on a buffer overflow discovered in Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader. The company immediately issued a product update to patch the flaw.

The recent spate of vulnerabilities are not indicative of a lack of overall security in Adobe's software platform, but instead are the inevitable result of developing a broad portfolio of software, Schaffel said.

"I don't think this should be seen as some kind of internal trend," he said. "When you consider the broad number of products and the enormous amount of code [we develop], every now and then something like this manages to slip through."

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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