Security Experts:

Adobe to Patch Critical Flash Player Zero-day Vulnerability Used in Active Attacks

After saying early Thursday that it was investigating reports of a critical zero-day vulnerability affecting its Flash Player that is being exploited in the wild, Adobe Systems issued a security advisory late Thursday, stating that it expects to have a patch available for the flaw during the week of Jan. 26.

The critical vulnerability (CVE-2015-0311) exists in Adobe Flash Player 16.0.0.287 and earlier versions for Windows and Macintosh, Adobe confirmed its its advisory

The vulnerability was discovered by French security researcher “Kafeine” while analyzing an instance of the Angler exploit kit, and successful exploitation could cause a crash and potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system.

The cybercriminals behind the Angler exploit kit often leverage Flash Player vulnerabilities to distribute malware and in some cases add Flash Player exploits shortly after the vulnerabilities are patched by Adobe.

Adobe said that it was aware of reports of the vulnerability being actively exploited in the wild via drive-by-download attacks against systems running Internet Explorer and Firefox on Windows 8 and below.

The exploit also affects Internet Explorer 11 running on a fully updated versions of Windows 8.1, and even the Firefox Web browser, Kafeine clarified on Thursday, adding that Chrome is not impacted.

The researcher said that he has reproduced the exploit with the latest version of Flash Player in Internet Explorer 6 through 8 running on Windows XP, and in Internet Explorer 8 running on Windows 7. The exploit also works in Internet Explorer 10 running on Windows 8.

“Disabling Flash Player for some days might be a good idea,” Kafeine wrote in a blog post.

According to Malwarebytes, this particular instance of Angler is trying to install a piece of malware known as Bedep.

Bedep is a distribution botnet that’s capable of loading multiple payloads on infected hosts. In this case, the payload is an ad fraud component.

“Upon infection, explorer.exe (not to be confused with iexplore.exe) is injected and performs the ad fraud calls,” said Jerome Segura, senior security researcher at Malwarebytes.

Based on Trend Micro's analysis of recent victims of the Angler Exploit kit, most of the vulnerability’s victims come from the US (84%) with some coming from Australia and Taiwan (9% and 5% respectively).

Symantec is also analyzing the zero-day and detects the SWF file utilized in the attack as Trojan.Swifi.

Additional reporting by Eduard Kovacs

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For more than 10 years, Mike Lennon has been closely monitoring the threat landscape and analyzing trends in the National Security and enterprise cybersecurity space. In his role at SecurityWeek, he oversees the editorial direction of the publication and is the Director of several leading security industry conferences around the world.