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!

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

Tags mcafeeAdobe Systemssecurity

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

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

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.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

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?