More than nine out of every 10 Windows users are at risk from the Flash zero-day vulnerability that Adobe won’t patch until Thursday, a Danish security company said today.
According to Secunia, 92 per cent of the 900,000 users who have recently run the company’s Personal Software Inspector (PSI) utility have Flash Player 10 on their PCs, while 31per cent have Flash Player 9. (The total exceeds 100 per cent because some users have installed both.)
The most-current versions of Flash Player — 22.214.171.124 and 10.0.22.87) — are vulnerable to hackers conducting drive-by attacks hosted on malicious and legitimate-but-compromised sites.
Anti-virus vendors have reported hundreds, in some cases thousands, of sites launching drive-bys against Flash.
Secunia’s PSI also pegged the installed base of the current Adobe Reader 9.1.2 and Abode Acrobat 9.1.2 at 48per cent and 2per cent, respectively.
Because both include an interpreter to handle Flash content embedded in PDF files, they also can be exploited. The initial attacks, in fact, were based on rigged PDFs.
Adobe has acknowledged that Flash, Reader and Acrobat contain a critical bug.
In a short entry to its security blog last week the company said it was “aware of reports of a potential vulnerability” in Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.1.2 and Adobe Flash Player 9 and 10. “We are currently investigating this potential issue,” said Brad Arkin, the company’s director for product security and privacy.
Reader and Acrobat 9.1.2 are the most current versions of those applications.
Later last week, an Adobe spokesman early Wednesday confirmed the vulnerability was an issue within Flash content that is inserted into a PDF (Portable Document Format) file. Users can drop Flash movies into PDF files, for instance.
VeriSign’s iDefense said it spotted an in-the-wild attack exploiting the Flash zero-day, according to a message posted to Twitter.
“iDefense recently investigated a targeted attack using [an] embedded zero-day Flash exploit inside a PDF file,” the security intelligence company said.
Adobe has had its share of security problems this year, particularly with Reader, the popular PDF viewer.
In mid-March, for example, it plugged several holes in Reader, including one that had been exploited by hackers since early January.
Then in both May and June it followed that with further fixes to quash another Reader zero-day and patch another 13 bugs in the viewer.
Security was also at issue this week when Danish bug tracker Secunia noticed that Adobe continues to provide an outdated edition of Reader for download. Adobe reacted to Secunia’s report by saying it was reevaluating how its software updater operated.
An Adobe spokesman said details of the Flash-PDF vulnerability would be posted on the company’s security blog when they are available.
Meanwhile, last Wednesday, Adobe kicked its security process into high gear, promising it would deliver patches for Flash by July 30, and fixes for Reader and Acrobat by July 31.
Until then, users have few options other than to delete, disable or rename the flawed component, “authplay.dll;” Adobe has posted terse instructions in a security bulletin, as have other organizations, including the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT).
The bug at the root of the vulnerability was first logged in Adobe’s bug tracking database nearly seven months ago, at the end of 2008.
PSI scans Windows systems for installed applications, then compares their version numbers to the most up-to-date editions; if they’re different, it makes note, then provides a link to the patch update.
“[A] PC user with vulnerabilities in his installed software, is like a house owner with open or unlocked doors,” said Mikkel Winther, the manager of Secunia’s PSI partner program, in an e-mail. “Maybe nobody will rob his house or compromise his system, but it is indeed possible and he hasn’t secured himself against it.”
Adobe has been faced with one security emergency after another this year. In mid-March, it patched several Reader vulnerabilities, then followed that with two more updates in May and June.
Also last week, after Secunia noticed that Adobe continued to provide an outdated edition of Reader for download from its Web site, Adobe said it might change how its software updater worked.