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Vulnerability Note VU#905281

Adobe Reader and Acrobat buffer overflow vulnerability


Adobe Reader and Acrobat contain a buffer overflow vulnerability that may allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code.

I. Description

Adobe Acrobat Reader is software designed to view Portable Document Format (PDF) files. Adobe also distributes the Adobe Acrobat Plug-In to allow users to view PDF files inside of a web browser. Adobe Reader and Acrobat contain a buffer overflow vulnerability.

II. Impact

By convincing a user to open a malicious PDF file, an attacker may be able to execute code or cause a vulnerable PDF viewer to crash. The PDF could be emailed as an attachment or hosted on a website.

III. Solution

Per Adobe Security Advisory APSA09-01:

    Adobe is planning to release updates to Adobe Reader and Acrobat to resolve the relevant security issue. Adobe expects to make available an update for Adobe Reader 9 and Acrobat 9 by March 11th, 2009. Updates for Adobe Reader 8 and Acrobat 8 will follow soon after, with Adobe Reader 7 and Acrobat 7 updates to follow.

Disable JavaScript in Adobe Reader and Acrobat

Disabling Javascript may prevent this vulnerability from being exploited. Acrobat JavaScript can be disabled in the General preferences dialog (Edit -> Preferences -> JavaScript and un-check Enable Acrobat JavaScript). Some vendors ship javascript support in a seperate package. Removing this package may remove javascript support in the Adobe PDF reader.

Prevent Internet Explorer from automatically opening PDF documents

The installer for Adobe Reader and Acrobat configures Internet Explorer to automatically open PDF files without any user interaction. This behavior can be reverted to the safer option of prompting the user by importing the following as a .REG file:
    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

Disable the displaying of PDF documents in the web browser

Preventing PDF documents from opening inside a web browser may mitigate this vulnerability. If this workaround is applied to updated versions of the Adobe reader, it may mitigate future vulnerabilities.

To prevent PDF documents from automatically being opened in a web browser:
  1. Open Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  2. Open the Edit menu.
  3. Choose the preferences option.
  4. Choose the Internet section.
  5. Un-check the "Display PDF in browser" check box.
Do not access PDF documents from untrusted sources

Do not open unfamiliar or unexpected PDF documents, particularly those hosted on web sites or delivered as email attachments. Please see Cyber Security Tip ST04-010.

Systems Affected

VendorStatusDate NotifiedDate Updated



Thanks to Adobe for information that was used in this report.

This document was written by Will Dormann and Ryan Giobbi.

Other Information

Date Public:2008-02-19
Date First Published:2009-02-20
Date Last Updated:2009-02-22
CERT Advisory: 
US-CERT Technical Alerts: 
Document Revision:50

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