Phishing with Hand Grenades
In the drowsy space between the Christmas and New Year's holiday, a little presentation
by Italian security researchers nearly went unnoticed, despite the fact that
it unearthed a show-stopping
security hole in a nearly ubiquitous application
That application is the Adobe Acrobat browser plug-in, which does its thing
whenever you click on a link to a PDF file on a Web site. The plug-in accepts
directly in the URL.
Sounds useful, right? The problem is the Acrobat plug-in doesn't discriminate
link to a legitimate PDF file - say, tax forms at a major bank's Web site --
displaying an HTML Web page that looks exactly like the legitimate login page
of the bank. It can even change the appearance of the address so everything
looks kosher to the user.
Now you're phishing with hand grenades.
in that any site that hosts a PDF is vulnerable, and there is simply no way
to detect whether or not an attack has occurred.
"The scary thing about this attack is regardless of me as a bank or a
financial services provider, no matter how secure I made it, if I host PDFs
I now have a vulnerability," says Billy Hoffman, lead R&D engineer
for SPI Dynamics.
Adobe has scrambled to patch the vulnerability, which affects Acrobat 4.0 and
later, but Hoffman questions how many millions of unpatched clients are still
out there. He also says that Adobe's lesson is one that corporate developers
need to take to heart. In short, development managers need to think more critically
when it comes to connected apps, and avoid crafting open-ended functionality
that can get terribly misused.
"I would say the big [mistake] was they really didn't think through the
repercussions of this feature," Hoffman says. "I've never seen a PDF
putting in features that really didn't need to be there. They put this in, but
really no one thought of what the security implications would be."
What are your thoughts on the Adobe plug-in vulnerability? Did Adobe royally
muck it up, or is it simply making the same mistakes as the rest of us on a
bigger stage? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/17/2007 at 1:15 PM