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Improved Security Requires Abandoning Adobe Reader: Hypponen

According to Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen with F-Secure the anti-virus firm, cyber-criminals are largely targeting the widely used Adobe Reader. Hypponen reported this on April 21, 2009 at the RSA Security Conference.

Said Hypponen that for improved security, computer users needed to abandon Reader and switch to a free option.

Hypponen's suggestion follows the discovery that among all targeted assaults till now in 2009, over 47% of them abused security flaws in Acrobat Reader, while a total of six flaws affected the application.

As a matter of fact, recently in March 2009, Adobe released a patch to repair a hole in Acrobat Reader that hackers had been abusing for long, after plugging a critical hole in Flash Player in February 2009.

Says Hypponen that malicious PDFs are as well frequently used in tailored attacks when they are launched on a specially chosen user viewing a specially constructed e-mail.

Besides, security specialists stated defense contractors, high-profile executives and others who are equipped with government information or sensitive corporate data are highly vulnerable to targeted assaults in which the attacker transmits them a malicious file containing a harmful code. Accordingly, on opening that file, it infects the computer while a backdoor is typically created that seizes data.

Moreover, Flash browser and PDF plug-ins are as well employed in 'drive-by download' attacks where malware is deceitfully installed onto a PC at the time the user surfs on the Internet. Meanwhile, Hypponen presented his accumulated statistics before the delegates according to which, the total number of PDF files utilized for targeted attacks increased from 128 during January 1-April 16, 2008 to over 2,300 during the same period in 2009.

Further, albeit Hypponen didn't suggest users any special software as an alternative, he did recommend that they visit pdfreaders.org to get a catalog of non-chargeable programs. Citing an instance of such switchover, Hypponen said that when the security of IE 6 had turned infamous, many users started using Firefox, which when gradually gained popularity, started to attract the hackers' attention as well.

Therefore, presently no secure Reader exists since each one is subject to attackers' target.

Related article: Inappropriate IT Decisions Leads to Security Dangers

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