Adobe sandbox protection hacked

A security researcher revealed that Adobe's sandbox security control can be easily circumvented.

Last year Adobe got the message that it was the target du jour for malicious attacks and stepped up its efforts to secure and protect its software. However, a security researcher revealed that one of the security measures developed by Adobe can be circumvented with relative ease.

The sandbox security control creates a sort of software safe zone--a segregated area where scripts and code can execute without putting the core functionality of the application at risk or allowing broader access to the PC itself. If potentially malicious software is able to bypass the sandbox, though, it can operate outside of that safe zone and potentially exploit the system or compromise data.

Anup Ghosh, founder and chief scientist for Invincea e-mailed the following comments to me. "When Adobe announced its plans to roll out its Reader X product, we commended them for trying to solve some of the major exploit problems they faced through the introduction of a sandbox. But we warned them that while application sandboxes are a step in the right direction, they leave residual risk on the table that will be exploited in the months to come."

Apparently, that time has come. Billy Rios, a security researcher, has found that getting around the Adobe sandbox is somewhat trivial for someone who knows what they're doing. Rios described the hack in a recent blog post that, while the Adobe sandbox does restrict some code execution, "Unfortunately, these restrictions are not the same as, "cannot communicate with the network in any way" which is what is stated in the documentation. The simplest way to bypass the local-with-filesystem sandbox is to simply use a file:// request to a remote server."

Ghosh explains, "The exploit doesn't involve breaking any code or finding any flaws in implementation. Rather, it shows the flaw in the design of the sandbox. As with any application sandbox, the sandbox designers are forced into an untenable position of trying to think of every way an attacker may attempt to exploit privileges and then come up with methods (bandages) to block those paths."

There is some silver lining to the sandbox bypass, though. Rios notes, "Fortunately, it seems you can only pass IPs and hostnames for system on the local network (RFC 1918 addresses). If an attacker wants to send data to a remote server on the Internet we'll have to resort to a couple other tricks."

In fairness to Adobe, as well as to sandbox implementations elsewhere, nobody ever claimed that the sandbox is the perfect security solution, or that it is impenetrable. As Rios pointed out, Adobe did use the unfortunate language of stating that files in the sandbox can not communicate with the network in any way--which is false, but just be aware that any security control is just one method or layer of protection and there are no silver bullets.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securitysoftwaredata protectionapplicationsAdobe Systems

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

Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?