The most attacked software seems to be from the company called Adobe. The problem is the extensions to the capabilities of the first versions of the Reader have made it a target on many fronts. Again we are reminded that other than Internet Exploder and its many updates, the patches we apply, or code we fully replace is from Adobe, either the (PDF) Reader or the Flash player.

It has become a routine for many, and those that it has not are being targetted for problems.

ComputerWorld shows that security firm F-Secure, and Microsoft, are ganging up on Adobe, and possibly pushing more users to abandon the software for better secured, or simply less attacked, workalikes.

Hackers adore Adobe Reader, and have pushed it into first place as the software most often exploited in targeted attacks, a Finnish security company said today.

Helsinki-based F-Secure also urged users to update to the newest version of Reader to protect themselves against new attacks taking advantage of a vulnerability patched just three weeks ago.

According to F-Secure, 61% of the nearly 900 targeted attacks it’s tracked in the first two months of 2010 exploited a vulnerability in Reader, Adobe’s popular PDF viewer. By comparison, Microsoft‘s Word was exploited in just 24% of the attacks, and bugs in its Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentation maker were leveraged only a combined 14% of the time.

Reader’s slice of the targeted attack “market” climbed from 29% in 2008 to almost 50% last year, but at its pace so far this year, exploits aimed at Adobe’s software are on track to account for nearly two out of every three attacks.

Microsoft’s portion of targeted attack exploits, meanwhile, has steadily declined. Last year, for example, Word, Excel and PowerPoint exploits accounted for approximately 51% of attacks aimed at specific individuals or organizations. In 2008, exploits of those three Microsoft Office applications made up 71% of all targeted attacks.

Word, Excel and PowerPoint accounted for only 39% of all attacks so far this year, F-Secure said.

Targeted attacks can be disastrous to victimized companies and organizations. Google, for instance, was one of scores of Western corporations hit late last year and early this year by targeted attacks thought to originate from China. In Google’s case, the attacks, which exploited a then-unpatched bug in Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), made off with company secrets. Intel was also attacked in January, but the chip maker has denied any connection between what hit its network and the Google-China attacks.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) said that hackers stole more than $120 million in just three months from small businesses’ banking accounts, in some cases using malware carried by targeted attacks.

Adobe said it wasn’t surprised at F-Secure’s data. “Given the relative ubiquity and cross-platform reach of many of our products, Adobe has attracted — and will likely continue to attract — increasing attention from attackers,” said spokeswoman Wiebke Lips in an e-mail.

She also urged users to update to the newest versions of Reader and other Adobe products. “The majority of attacks we are seeing are exploiting software installations that are not up-to-date on the latest security updates,” she said.

F-Secure and Microsoft echoed Lips’ recommendation, as both have discovered in-the-wild attacks exploiting a vulnerability Adobe patched less than a month ago.

On Feb. 16, Adobe issued an emergency update for Reader and Acrobat to patch a pair of flaws, including one tagged as CVE-2010-0188 in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) database. Microsoft reported that bug to Adobe via its Microsoft Vulnerability Research Program (MSVR), where the company’s security researchers submit flaws they find in third-party software to the programs’ makers.

F-Secure’s claim that Reader leads the exploit pack isn’t the first time that a security company has awarded Adobe dubious honors. Last month, ScanSafe of San Bruno, Calif. said that malicious PDF files comprised 80% of all exploits at the end of last year.

The most up-to-date editions of Adobe Reader, 9.3.1 and 8.2.1, can be downloaded using links on Adobe’s security site.

Good news for Microsoft, bad news for Adobe. It would be really nice, in all of my reading, to see what work-alike of Acrobat Reader was the least sensitive to these attacks, but none of the comparisons i have seen do that comparison. In this day of heavy applications, and fast processors, who cares if Foxit is a bit faster to start, or fits better on a thumbdrive (with thumbdrives in the GB range, a few megabytes is no big deal). The ubiquity of PDF files means that something will be needed, but a secure something would be just the ticket.

Perhaps a file check similar to what Word files have would be in order. It would add some baggage to the Reader, but so what? It would also be interesting to see if anything was happening on other platforms. If nothing is problematic on Linux/Unix/OS X, then the file check only needs to be in the Windows version of Reader.


SimonBarSinisterThere is always someone out there that is trying to mess things up. The Simon bar Sinisters of the world will probably always be there, doing their best to make your day a bit worse.

Opera, the fastest and most secure web browser

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