Adobe doles out bug-filled PDF Reader to users

It still offers Reader 9.1 for download; users at risk without critical updates, says Secunia

Adobe delivers an out-of-date version of Reader to users who download the popular application from its Web site, a security company warned today.

The edition Adobe currently offers includes at least 14 security vulnerabilities that have been patched by the company in the last two months.

Danish vulnerability tracking vendor Secunia first noticed that Adobe was offering an outdated Reader when users of its Personal Software Inspector (PSI) utility -- which scans Windows PCs for unpatched applications -- started complaining when the tool said they were running a vulnerable version, even though they had just downloaded the PDF viewer.

"There was some confusion about Adobe Reader," said Mikkel Winther, the manager of the PSI partner program. "Users had downloaded the latest Reader, but still PSI was telling them that it was vulnerable."

At first, Secunia suspected that PSI was throwing off a "false positive," but that wasn't the case. "Adobe.com ships software with known vulnerabilities," Winther said.

The version now hosted on Adobe's Web site, said Winther, is Reader 9.1, an edition that was released March 10 to plug several holes, including one that had been actively exploited by hackers since at least Jan. 9, 2009.

Adobe has issued two security updates since then. The first, released May 12, patched another "zero-day" bug in Reader, while the second, issued June 9, fixed at least 13 critical flaws reported by outside researchers and secretly patched an unspecified number of bugs found by Adobe's own security team.

Computerworld confirmed that Adobe's Web site offers Reader 9.1 to users who download the application. Adobe did not reply to a request for comment on why it posts an out-of-date edition on its site.

"Adobe does have the Adobe Updater, which will eventually update Reader to the patched versions," said Winther, "but sometimes it takes days or weeks for the updater to come up." By default Adobe's updater pings the company server once a week.

Adobe's practice leaves users vulnerable to hackers who rely on malformed PDF documents to hijack PCs, said Winther. If a user receives a PDF -- likely as an attachment to an e-mail message -- but doesn't have Reader installed, then downloads and installs Reader 9.1 from the company's site, he can be successfully attacked by exploits fixed in Version 9.1.1 and 9.1.2.

"PC users need to patch all their vulnerable programs and they need to do so as fast as possible after the patch has been issued from the vendor," said Winther. "Failing to do so is playing Russian Roulette.... It is only a question of time, and luck, when your system will be compromised."

Winther urged users who have recently downloaded and installed Reader to manually update the application by selecting "Check for Updates" from the "Help" menu. Alternately, they can download and run Secunia's PSI tool to locate any outdated software.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags pdfadobepdf bug

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

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

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?