Adobe Tightens Security for Reader, Acrobat

Monday, October 22, 2012 @ 09:10 AM gHale

Beleaguered Adobe released new versions of Reader and Acrobat to include a slew of new security enhancements.

Reader XI extends its sandbox “Protected View” controls, where PDFs display in a confined environment to prevent malware from running elsewhere on the machine, to now include “read-only” activities so hackers are unable to steal data via attacks, including screen scrapes.

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These new Reader and Acrobat offerings also include the built-in security feature Address Space Layout Randomization, or ASLR. Introduced with the release of Windows Vista in early 2007, ASLR randomizes memory space and significantly lowers the chances for certain code execution attacks to succeed.

“Force ASLR improves the effectiveness of existing ASLR implementations by ensuring that all DLLs (dynamic-link libraries) loaded by Adobe Reader or Acrobat XI, including legacy DLLs without ASLR enabled, are randomized,” said Priyank Choudhury, a researcher with the Adobe Secure Software Engineering Team (ASSET). “By enabling Force ASLR in Adobe Reader and Acrobat XI, we are making it even more difficult for an attacker to exploit vulnerabilities.”

The update also includes a new PDF Whitelisting Framework, which administrators can use to approve certain JavaScript running on PDF files or websites.

In addition, the new versions offer support for elliptic curve cryptography (ECC) for digital signatures, which is becoming a bigger issue within the industry. ECC technology is a higher form of public-key encryption.

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