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Researchers Confirm Attackers Targeted Defense Firms with Adobe Reader Zero-day

Security researchers have uncovered more details about the recent Adobe Reader and Acrobat exploit that is being used in attacks targeting U.S. defense firms.

According to Symantec, the attackers are leveraging a zero-day flaw in 9.x versions of Reader to infect Windows computers with the Sykipot Trojan, which opens up a backdoor on compromised systems.

“We have seen Backdoor.Sykipot used in targeted attacks since January, 2010 and this is not the first time it has been used in conjunction with a zero-day exploit,” blogged Symantec’s Stephen Doherty.

Adobe issued an advisory about the vulnerability earlier this week after it was reported to them by Lockheed Martin and the Defense Security Information Exchange. A screenshot (below) posted by Symantec of the malicious emails circulating, shows the attackers are masking the attack with a message about a guide for contractors on a contract award process. A malicious PDF accompanies the message, and when opened, exploits the currently unpatched vulnerability and drops the Sykipot component.

Defense Firms Targeted in Attacks

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According to Adobe, the issue is a U3D memory corruption vulnerability that could cause a crash and permit an attacker to take over a vulnerable system. The attacks thus far have only targeted Adobe Reader 9.x versions on Windows. The vulnerability however also affects Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.4.6 and earlier 9.x versions on UNIX and Mac, as well as Adobe Reader X (10.1.1) and Acrobat X (10.1.1) and earlier 10.x versions on Windows and Macs.

Adobe has announced plans to patch the bug on 9.x versions for Windows no later than Dec. 12. Patches for Windows and Mac users of Adobe Reader X and Acrobat X will come in the next quarterly update, scheduled for Jan. 10, 2012. The fix for Adobe Reader 9.x for UNIX will come Jan. 10 as well. In the meantime, the company noted that Adobe Reader X Protected Mode and Acrobat X Protected View offer some mitigation against the exploit.

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