back to article How many ways can a PDF mess up your PC? 47 in this Adobe update alone

Adobe has posted security updates for Acrobat, Reader, and Photoshop, many of them critical fixes. The developer says the Acrobat and Reader update will address a total of 47 CVE-listed vulnerabilities, including two dozen remote code execution flaws in the PDF readers. Adobe notes that none of the bugs are being actively …

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Impressive

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Anonymous Coward

Adobe notes that none of the bugs are being actively targeted yet.

Bold statement. I didn't know Adobe supplied anti-virus/malware etc...

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"I didn't know Adobe supplied anti-virus/malware etc..."

Even if they did, they'd have little way of knowing.

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It takes very dedicated programmers to create code with so many bugs. Kudos to Acrobat! :)

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Anonymous Coward

Lest we never forget flash.

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Software as a service requires steady supply of fresh bugs. And Adobe delivers.

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Boffin

For my sins I’ve spent a considerable proportion of the last six years or so engaging with PDF as a file format in a disturbingly intimate manner. I’ve come to the conclusion that if somebody specifically set out to custom design a delivery vehicle for malware you would probably end up with something looking a lot like PDF, and that’s before you consider the potential for vulnerabilities in the reader, the OS it’s running on, and any third-party library code it depends on...

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Meh

Upvoted, although "engaging with PDF as a file format in a disturbingly intimate manner" raises all sorts of very uncomfortable questions. Are French letters involved?

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French letters? Not so much. Unicode however...

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Unhappy

Gadzooks!

Unicorn horns, you say?

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My guess would have been four letters rather than French.

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Use-After-Free and Heap Overflow in 2018?

The last decade called and wants its easy exploits back. Seriously, with all of the tools available to check for and mitigate these defects how do these make it through QA and testing?

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Re: Use-After-Free and Heap Overflow in 2018?

how do these make it through QA and testing?

Adobe? QA and Testing? These are concepts that are such polar opposites that they cannot coexist. A bit like matter and antimatter, or Zuckerberg and ethics.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Use-After-Free and Heap Overflow in 2018?

I'm thinking using all those tools have resulted in a backlog of found flaws that will take them into the next decade. I must suppose that QA and testing are very important now, and perhaps rate-limiting, as coming up with fixes that don't break things is hard. (this is Adobe we're talking about - coding fixes well is way harder than coding features badly)

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GBE

Re: Use-After-Free and Heap Overflow in 2018?

how do these make it through QA and testing?

How would we poor Adobe users know?

Oh yea, we _are_ Adobe's "QA and testing".

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Trollface

Re: Use-After-Free and Heap Overflow in 2018?

Seriously, with all of the tools available to check for and mitigate these defects how do these make it through QA and testing?

Perhaps Adobe should change to FOSS model to avoid such bugs...

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Last decade?

More like 90s, those exploits were common two decades ago and are SO easy to fix with instrumented code you have to have a zero dollar development budget for security not to use something like Purify.

I remember using Purify in like 1993 or 1994, it has been around forever...

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Re: Use-After-Free and Heap Overflow in 2018?

Keep in mind that much of Acrobat Reader probably still is from the 1990s with added bells and whistles. Nobody dares making a rewrite as there are probably old files which that would break.

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Windows

Re: Use-After-Free and Heap Overflow in 2018?

"Perhaps Adobe should change to FOSS model to avoid such bugs..."

Why? The Microsoft model is working so well for them...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Use-After-Free and Heap Overflow in 2018?

Is anything released these days have any QA and testing done beforehand?

The Internet seems to be making lazy programmers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Use-After-Free and Heap Overflow in 2018?

It is very, very hard to use tools to identify all of the defect sites in what is effectively legacy code - especially when no thought was given to writing the code in a way that would allow these sort of errors to be detectable (or prevent them in the first place).

In general, errors of this type are undecidable - this means tools will produce a mixture of valid detections, false-positives (i.e. "noise", and often a lot of it) and false-negatives (real issues that don't get reported).

Anyone that claims they have a tool that can catch all defects without false alarms is selling snake-oil.

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Re: Use-After-Free and Heap Overflow in 2018?

Last decade? I'm sure use-after-free was used on Z80's for debugging purposes 3 decades ago (we were nice to each other then) and fucking everything overflowed then.

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I've said it before...

...more bugs than bytes!

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Doesn't Okular have any of these CVE thingies? I'm feeling deprived.

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Joke

@Doctor Syntax

Found one for you: CVE-2010-2575, mind you it was fixed 8 years ago so you can sleep well tonight.

Details:

Stefan Cornelius of Secunia Research discovered a boundary error during RLE decompression in the “TranscribePalmImageToJPEG()” function in generators/plucker/inplug/image.cpp of okular when processing images embedded in PDB files, which can be exploited to cause a heap-based buffer overflow. (CVE-2010-2575)

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WTF?

who still uses Adobe anyway?

especially true on Linux, BSD systems

atril works pretty well for me. [evince now enforces 2D flatso look last I checked, won't touch with 10 foot pole]

(I had to go back and check what it was they did - was thinking '.Not' but it was a gtk 3 2d flatso look that irritated me)

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Re: who still uses Adobe anyway?

Feh. I wondered why I could not get Acrobat to run on my 'puter. 30 pages of links via Google offering me downloads of best free PDF reader and it turns out I am running Linux. Bugger.

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Re: who still uses Adobe anyway?

Here we use Lucide and GhostScriptView. Between them we can open any PDF we have and GhostScript even tells us if there is a problem with the PDF.

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Many companies...

...force it upon their users.

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Re: who still uses Adobe anyway?

There is another excellent replacement:

master-pdf-editor

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Anonymous Coward

Re: who still uses Adobe anyway?

Unfortunately, there are such things as encrypted PDFs which are protected with the "FileOpen" (hah) plugin (sadly all too common for academic articles), and for Linux users the plugin only exists for Acrobat Reader 8, and no newer versions(!).

And then you have people who don't like change and so still prefer to use Acrobat Reader rather than their browser's PDF viewer (or evince or okular).

And then you have the fact (I think, fortunately, less so, nowadays) that the PDFs of many academic articles were created by LaTeX, often using a, shall we say, "quirky" assorted of LaTeX packages, which all seem to try their best to tickle bugs in PDF viewers, requiring users to try several different viewers until they can find one which displays the document properly.

And then, the icing on the cake is that Linux printer drivers supplied by actual supposedly corporate printer/copier manufacturers get far less care and attention (yes, Xerox, I am glowering at you), so that even if you manage to display a quirky PDF, it's still a matter of luck as to whether it will actually print successfully from Linux. Sadly, although somewhat understandably, saying that remote-desktopping into a Windows computer and just printing the file from there is really by far the easiest and most viable work-around, doesn't tend to always go down very well.

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C++ for the win.

C++ for the win. Only language I know of that can cause this many problems.

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Well...

You can, hypothetically, write good code in C++, the problem is that C++ is so incredibly complex, that most programmers only know a fraction of it very passingly. So typically they have little idea what their code does. Combine that with no memory safety and you get a recipe for disaster.

The few people actually knowing C++ don't write software (except for compilers), they tour the world teaching C++.

C has similar problems, but at least it's low level enough that you can understand what's happening and therefore know where to focus your attention on.

Actually today the ideal language for something like a PDF reader might actually be Delphi. There's now a full free cross-platform implementation around. It's got memory safety, integer bounds check, array bounds check, a platform independent GUI toolkit which looks native on every system.

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Re: Well...

For those who want to try it: Lazarus-ide using FPC (Free Pascal Compiler) https://www.lazarus-ide.org/

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Facepalm

You can, hypothetically, write good code in C++

@Christian Berger: "You can, hypothetically, write good code in C++, the problem is that C++ is so incredibly complex" ..

What's Wrong With Object-Oriented Programming?

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Re: Well...

Dear Mr Berger,

I read your comment and was about to upvote when I came to this:

Actually today the ideal language for something like a PDF reader might actually be Delphi.

Crikey, NO! TurboPascal is nice for teens to learn how to program, that is all, though ... ;-) Nothing to do in a professional piece of software. I think we might have already discussed this on stackoverflow ? There cannot be more than one Delphi fanboy in this solar system, right ?

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Go

Use an alternative to Acrobat

and preferably PDF

try .ps, we should be able to use it directly

and for common sense use a different separate viewer.

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Re: Use an alternative to Acrobat

I've got an Acrobat manual from early PDF days. It was basically a wrapper for Post Script. They took something that worked and fucked it up.

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Well actually...

PDF is not _that_ bad, at least not if you use "archive grade" variants of it. You can cut down the featureset enough to be both safe and usable.

PS is an accident waiting to happen, as PS is actually turing complete code by design. So you'll likely be able to exploit things via it, even on completely correct implementations.

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Mother of chickens.

I mean, I have always hated PDF and Acrobat with irrational rage, but 47 vulns?

And, of course, just today I had to open PDF documents (on my PC and without a condom!) and (attempt) to fill out one of them and submit it to HR. Oh please. I can only hope that the wretched thing gave the creator herpes. What is wrong with an HTML form? Oh, wait, that would take more than a point-and-click mentality to create, so of course they're having none of that!

Better to heave bloated PDF around until everyone on the network is used to opening them without qualm, and then deal with the security breaches as they happen.

Sorry. Always hated Portable Document Fuxery. Always will, and glad of a chance to go off half-crocked about it.

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Re: Mother of chickens.

"Sorry. Always hated Portable Document Fuxery. ..."

Don't be sorry, you're among friends here.

We still have customers who'll email us a two megabyte PDF to order a bottle of Tippex.

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Anything new here?

13 use-after-free

7 heap overflow

1 double free

1 out-of-bounds write

1 type confusion

1 untrusted pointer dereference

All of these are machine level coding errors most of us have been making for at least 40 years. We should ask ourselves urgently why we're still so incompetent at coding before someone else demands that answer. Or is everyone so tolerant already of the garbage we call software that no-one will ever ask?

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Re: Anything new here?

I think you are being somewhat rash in assuming that these are *new* bugs. I think it is more likely that the offending code was cut-and-pasted into place 10 or 20 years ago and today's patches are merely a measure of how long it took Adobe to realise that their codebase sucks.

Of course, for some of us it has been obvious for nearly 2 decades that there is something deeply, deeply wrong with the codebase, since it was ostensibly written in a portable language for a flat memory model and yet ports to other OSes or other bit sizes have apparently been impossible.

A port to a NIX would, for example, allow the use of free tools like valgrind that would find such problems statically. (And, with reference to the earlier post that worried about false positives, the solution there is simply to examine each on manually and either (i) re-write it, (ii) figure out why it is a false positive and then annotate it to suppress the message, or (iii) fix it. Put another way, you start at the beginning and work through to the end and if it takes 10 years then that serves you right for writing such shit in the first place.

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WTF?

Restart required. To update a fucking PDF viewer?!!!

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Boffin

It’s in our procurement rules now, even for “free” software and services

Vendor = ‘Adobe’ - authorisation rejected by IT. Marketing HATE us, but the board agreed with the presentation showing how much it really cost to maintain Adobe products including Acrobat Reader. We are now Adobe free.

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I use a lot of PDF. But I do not use anything openly Adobe for that, though. I use the tools built-in macOS (licensed from Adobe) and 3rd party tools.

I guess some code for those is supplied by Adobe. So how are those tools affected by all this?

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So I take it none of these are affecting people using some _other_ PDF reader, that isn't Acrobat Reader...?

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Well,

I don't see the guy who writes Sumatra PDF reader updating every other week.

Which, of course, is not to say there aren't bugs in his code but for a small, efficient PDF reader, it works perfectly.

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Happy

Photoshop ?

Security reasearchers finally looking at Photoshop ? This will turn to be as bloody as Flash and Acrobat!

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