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Computing News | Researcher posts homemade patch for critical PDF bug

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Posted by: Tweaker
Date added: 21:00 Monday, 23rd February 2009 GMT
Source: Computer World News

A security researcher has published a home-brewed patch for a critical Adobe Reader vulnerability that hackers are exploiting in the wild using malicious PDF files, beating Adobe Systems Inc. to the punch by more than two weeks.

Lurene Grenier, a vulnerability researcher at intrusion-prevention vendor Sourcefire Inc., posted the patch Sunday with the caveats that it applies only to the Windows version of Adobe Reader 9.0 and comes with no guarantees.

"The patch is just a replacement .dll -- AcroRd32.dll to be precise," said Grenier in a post to the Sourcefire vulnerability research blog. The .dll, which weighs in at 19MB, replaces the existing file in the "C:Program FilesAdobeReader 9.0Reader" directory on Windows machines.

"No warranty expressed or implied, etc. etc.," concluded Grenier.

Although hackers have been exploiting the flaw in Adobe Reader since at least Feb. 12 -- the date that Symantec Corp. researchers first found the attack code in the wild -- Adobe said last week that it may not patch the problem until March 11.

In a security advisory the company issued last Thursday, Adobe confirmed that Versions 7, 8 and 9 of both Reader and Adobe Acrobat, an advanced PDF-creation application, contain the flaw. It plans to patch Versions 7 and 8 at an unspecified date after it fixes Version 9 next month.


Another way to protect against the current exploits is to disable JavaScript, numerous experts have recommended. Although the flaw is not in the JavaScript functionality of Reader or Acrobat, since the exploits employ JavaScript, turning it off stymies any current attack.

To disable JavaScript in Adobe Reader, Windows users should select "Preferences" from the Edit menu, then click on "JavaScript" in the ensuing list and uncheck the box marked "Enable Acrobat JavaScript." Mac users will find the preferences under the "Adobe Reader" menu.


Grenier's patch can be downloaded via a link from the Sourcefire site.

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