Adobe Says New Acrobat Attacks Have Virtually Disappeared

Adobe Says New Acrobat Attacks Have Virtually Disappeared

One of the main reasons people don’t like using Acrobat Reader for viewing PDFs is that it has historically been a popular target for hackers (and the updates that might prevent attacks are often slow and intrusive). However, according to Adobe itself, since the release of version 10 last year the number of vulnerabilities identified and exploited has dropped dramatically. The bad news? Those hackers are now looking towards Flash.

Speaking at the Kaspersky Security Summit in Malaga last week, David Lenoe, head of Adobe’s product security incident response team, said the introduction of sandboxing technologies (which limit the access granted to any executing code) in Acrobat X, the number of vulnerabilities identified has dropped dramatically.

We haven’t seen anything that successfully penetrates the sandbox in the wild, and we have seen a significant reduction in targeted attacks. Of course there’s still older vulnerabilities still being exploited, but in terms of new zero-day vulnerabilities, since the introduction of sandboxing, we haven’t seen anything significant.

That’s good news, though unfortunately it doesn’t mean the criminal types have been idle:

As a consequence we’re seeing Flash zero days rather than Reader zero days. There’s been a shift to Flash player.

As ever, keeping your software up-to-date ensures you’re less likely to be a target. Bear in mind also that there are still plenty of good alternatives to Acrobat Reader; I’m a big fan of recently-updated Nitro Reader, and there are other alternatives listed in our Hive Five of PDF tools.

Angus Kidman travelled to Malaga as a guest of Kaspersky Lab.


  • I don’t deal with a great number of PDF’s in the first place, and of those I do, come from known sources – so I’m not hugely concerned about the safety aspect with Adobe Acrobat. The main reason I don’t use it however, is bloat. I see no reason to use Adobe Acrobat to view PDF’s when there is so many free alternatives, which offer varying degrees of features. For someone like me, who want’s slightly more usability than Chrome’s PDF reader (which I’ve also heard is riddled with security holes) – something like Sumatra is perfect.

  • Of course, this doesn’t apply to “Adobe PDF Reader Advanced 2012” which only comes attached as a suspicious zip file to an email from “[email protected]”. Because there is only Windows (Oobootoo Lennox? Huh?), Adobe can cold-call me with updates like this!

    I’ve been switching everyone I know to Chrome. If a plugin is outdated, it won’t run until it’s updated. Simple as that. And Flash is built in so it’s updated as long as your Chrome is.

  • While this is nice, this hasn’t helped the lag their sandboxing has caused with opening files over slow connection. Over our VPN to remote sites, opening a 200kb vpn can take up to a minute on 20mb dsl. with all other factors remaining the same, it took 5-10 seconds on reader 7 and 8.

    As a result, I’ve had to make sure all the resources are central and deploy alternative readers (foxit etc) to remote sites..which helps avoid the adobe reader exploits nicely, but gives me another piece of software to support.

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