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From: idlabs-advisories at (
Subject: iDEFENSE Security Advisory 12.14.04: Adobe
	Acrobat Reader 5.0.9 mailListIsPdf() Buffer Overflow Vulnerability

Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0.9 mailListIsPdf() Buffer Overflow Vulnerability

iDEFENSE Security Advisory 12.14.04
December 14, 2004


Adobe Acrobat Reader is a program for viewing Portable Document Format
(PDF) documents. More information is available at the following site:


Remote exploitation of a buffer overflow in version 5.09 of Adobe 
Acrobat Reader for Unix could allow for execution of arbitrary code.

The vulnerability specifically exists in a the function mailListIsPdf().

This function checks if the input file is an email message containing 
a PDF. It unsafely copies user supplied data using strcat into a fixed 
sized buffer.


Successful exploitation allows an attacker to execute arbitrary code 
under the privileges of the local user. Remote exploitation is possible 
by sending a specially crafted e-mail and attaching either the 
maliciously crafted PDF document or a link to it.


iDEFENSE has confirmed the existence of this vulnerability in Adobe 
Acrobat Reader version 5.0.9 for Unix. Previous versions of Adobe 
Acrobat Reader 5 for Unix are suspected also to be vulnerable.


User awareness is the best defense against this class of attack. 
Users should be aware of the existence of such attacks and proceed with 
caution when following links from suspicious and/or unsolicited e-mail.

Additionally, you may wish to apply the following unofficial patch from 
iDEFENSE Labs to the acroread shell script. The acroread shell script 
calls the appropriate binary for the platform. The patch adds a check
that ensures that files passed as arguments to acroread are in fact PDF 
documents. This patch will not protect against files opened from within
the Acrobat Reader GUI.

The bin/ directory of the application contains an 'acroread' shell
script while the Reader/ directory contains a binary with the same name.
The command 'file acroread', when executed in the same directory as the
shell script, should return the line:

acroread: a /bin/sh script text executable

This result indicates the existence of the appropriate file that the
patch below can be applied to.


--- acroread.orig 2004-10-13 17:25:57.000000000 -0400
+++ acroread 2004-10-13 17:55:43.000000000 -0400
@@ -309,6 +309,16 @@
 if [ -f "$ACRO_EXEC_CMD" ] ; then
+  for CHECK in ${1+"$@"};
+  do
+   [ -f "$CHECK" ] && {
+    file "$CHECK" | grep "PDF document" || \
+    {
+     echo "$CHECK" exists, but is not a PDF document. 
+     exit 1;
+    }
+   }
+   done
   exec "$ACRO_EXEC_CMD" ${1+"$@"}
   echo "ERROR: Cannot find $ACRO_EXEC_CMD"


This vulnerability is fixed in Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0.10 for Unix.
Further details of the vulnerability are available in the following
knowledgebase article:


The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) project has assigned the
name CAN-2004-1152 to this issue. This is a candidate for inclusion
in the CVE list (, which standardizes names for
security problems.


10/14/2004  Initial vendor notification
10/15/2004  Initial vendor response
12/14/2004  Coordinated public disclosure


This vulnerability was discovered by Greg MacManus, iDEFENSE Labs.

Get paid for vulnerability research


Copyright (c) 2004 iDEFENSE, Inc.

Permission is granted for the redistribution of this alert
electronically. It may not be edited in any way without the express
written consent of iDEFENSE. If you wish to reprint the whole or any
part of this alert in any other medium other than electronically, please
email for permission.

Disclaimer: The information in the advisory is believed to be accurate
at the time of publishing based on currently available information. Use
of the information constitutes acceptance for use in an AS IS condition.
There are no warranties with regard to this information. Neither the
author nor the publisher accepts any liability for any direct, indirect,
or consequential loss or damage arising from use of, or reliance on,
this information.

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