Adobe to patch Reader zero-day bug Thursday

Company knew of critical flaw before Black Hat, says researcher

Adobe said today that it would patch a critical Reader vulnerability on Thursday.

Two weeks ago, Adobe had promised to fix the flaw during the week of Aug. 16 with an emergency, or "out-of-band" security update, but had not slated a specific date.

Computerworld had pegged the likely release date as Aug. 17 based on past Adobe practice of issuing many of its security updates on Tuesdays.

The bug Adobe plans to patch was disclosed by researcher Charlie Miller at last month's Black Hat security conference, when he demonstrated how the open-source BitBlaze toolkit could be used to boost bug-hunting productivity.

Miller, an analyst with Baltimore-based Independent Security Evaluators, is well-known for finding vulnerabilities in Adobe's popular Reader PDF viewer. Last March, Miller showed how a simple fuzzing tool could root out scores of potential bugs in Reader and other software.

Miller said the vulnerability is in Reader's and Acrobat's font parsing, but is not connected with the PDF font parsing flaw exploited by hackers to "jailbreak" Apple's iOS 4 earlier this month. Apple patched the font vulnerability last Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Miller said that Adobe knew of the font bug in Reader and Acrobat before he revealed it at Black Hat.

"Apparently @taviso previously reported to Adobe the Reader 0-day I dropped at BH," Miller said on Twitter. "Haha, ruined his effort at trying to be responsible."

Miller's reference to "taviso" was to Tavis Ormandy, the Google security engineer who sparked debate this summer when he unveiled a critical Windows flaw just days after reporting it to Microsoft.

That debate, which resulted in Google and Microsoft proposing changes to how vulnerability researchers report bugs and how vendors react to the reports, centered about "full disclosure" and "responsible disclosure," two competing vulnerability-reporting philosophies.

Miller said in response to a follow-up question that Adobe told him Ormandy had reported the vulnerability before Black Hat.

Thursday's out-of-band update will include fixes for vulnerabilities other than the one Miller uncovered, Adobe has said. The company will also still ship its next regularly-scheduled quarterly update for Reader and Acrobat on Oct. 12.

In the past, Adobe has delayed its quarterly updates when it has issued an emergency patch.

Adobe will publish a security bulletin that includes links to the updated Reader and Acrobat sometime Thursday on its Web site.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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