Security Experts:

Adobe Patches Flash Player Zero-Day Used in Watering-hole Attacks

Adobe has released security updates for its Adobe Flash Player to address vulnerabilities that are being exploited in the wild.

According to Kaspersky Lab, who discovered the zero-day (CVE-2014-0515) earlier this month, there are at least two different exploits currently being used in active attacks.

Both exploits spread from a site created by the Syrian Ministry of Justice to serve as an online forum for citizens to complain about law and order violations. As such, Kaspersky Lab believes the attack is a watering-hole attack designed to target Syrian dissidents complaining about the government.

“The first exploit (movie.swf) is standard and can infect practically any unprotected computer, the second exploit (include.swf) only functions properly on computers where Adobe Flash Player 10 ActiveX and Cisco MeetingPlace Express Add-In are installed,” Vyacheslav Zakorzhevsky, a Kaspersky Lab Expert, explained.

The vulnerability is located in the Flash Player Pixel Bender component, designed for video and image processing, but is no longer supported by Adobe.

Versions of Adobe Flash Player affected by the vulnerability include:

• Adobe Flash Player and earlier versions for Windows

• Adobe Flash Player and earlier versions for Macintosh

• Adobe Flash Player and earlier versions for Linux 

“We are sure that all these tricks were used in order to carry out malicious activity against a very specific group of users without attracting the attention of security solutions," Zakorzhevsky said. We believe that the Cisco add-in may be used to download/implement the payload as well as to spy directly on the infected computer. It’s likely that the attack was carefully planned and that professionals of a pretty high caliber were behind it. The use of a professionally written 0-day exploits that were used to infect a single resource testifies to this.”

“Although we’ve only seen a limited number attempts to exploit this vulnerability, we’re strongly recommending users to update their versions of Adobe Flash Player software," Zakorzhevsky continued. "It is possible that once information about this vulnerability becomes known, criminals would try to reproduce these new exploits or somehow get the existing variants and use it in other attacks. Even with a patch available, cybercriminals would expect to profit from this vulnerability because a worldwide update of software as widely used as Flash Player will take some time. Unfortunately this vulnerability will be dangerous for a while.”

“The authors were counting on the developers not finding a vulnerability in that component and that the exploit would remain active for longer,” Zakorzhevsky noted in a blog post. “All this suggests that the attackers were not targeting users en masse.”

Adobe credited Alexander Polyakov of Kaspersky Lab for reporting the vulnerability.

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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.