McAfee spots Adobe Reader PDF-tracking flaw

A flaw in Adobe Reader could allow an attacker to see when and where a PDF is opened.

McAfee said it has found a vulnerability in Adobe Systems' Reader program that reveals when and where a PDF document is opened.

The issue is not a serious problem and does not allow for remote code execution, wrote McAfee's Haifei Li in a blog post. But McAfee does consider it a security problem and has notified Adobe. It affects every version of Adobe Reader, including the latest version, 11.0.2, Li wrote.

McAfee recently detected some "unusual" PDF samples, Li wrote. McAfee withheld some key details of the vulnerability, but did generally describe it.

The issue occurs when someone launches a link to another file path, which calls on a JavaScript API (application programming interface). Reader warns a user when they are going to call on a resource from another place, such as a link on the Internet.

If the external resource does not exist, the warning dialog does not appear, but the API returns some TCP traffic, Li wrote. By manipulating a second parameter with a special value, the API's behavior changes to reveal information. That could include information such as the location of a document on a system "by calling the JavaScript 'this.path' value," Li wrote.

"Malicious senders could exploit this vulnerability to collect sensitive information such as IP address, Internet service provider or even the victim's computing routine," Li wrote. "In addition, our analysis suggests that more information could be collected by calling various PDF JavaScript APIs."

Li suggests the problem could be used for reconnaissance by attackers.

"Some people might leverage this issue just out of curiosity to know who has opened their PDF documents, but others won't stop there," Li wrote. "An APT [advanced persistent threat] attack usually consists of several sophisticated steps. The first step is often collecting information from the victim; this issue opens the door."

McAfee suggests that Adobe Reader users disable JavaScript until a patch is released. Adobe officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

Join the newsletter!

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

Tags securitymcafeeAdobe Systems

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

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >

Mobile

Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

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.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

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?