Patch early, patch often: Adobe pushes emergency fix for active 0-day

Yet again, Adobe has released a new patch to fix a critical vulnerability that "could potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system," according to the company.

Adobe acknowledged that the flaw (CVE-2015-3113) is "being actively exploited in the wild via limited, targeted attacks." Known affected systems run Internet Explorer for Windows 7 and below and Firefox on Windows XP, according to the patch details. Adobe says the following software can potentially be impacted:

  • Adobe Flash Player and earlier versions for Windows and Macintosh
  • Adobe Flash Player Extended Support Release version and earlier 13.x versions for Windows and Macintosh
  • Adobe Flash Player and earlier 11.x versions for Linux

The company recommends updating to the latest version of Flash to avoid the risk of exploitation, but at this point users should take a hard look at how necessary Flash is to their daily Internet use. In 2015 alone, we've seen Adobe issue multiple emergency Flash updates to patch critical vulnerabilities under active attack—including three such instances in the first five weeks of the year. The situation has gotten so grim that security reporter Brian Krebs recently experimented with a month without having the Flash Player installed at all. "The result? I hardly missed it at all," Krebs writes.

This newest flaw was uncovered through the help of FireEye security researchers. A Singapore-based FireEye team discovered the vulnerability in June by detecting a phishing campaign exploiting CVE-2015-3113. "The attackers’ e-mails included links to compromised Web servers that served either benign content or a malicious Adobe Flash Player file that exploits CVE-2015-3113," FireEye writes.

FireEye identified APT3, a China-based group also known as UPS, as responsible for these attacks (see more on the group in FireEye's report on Operation Clandestine Fox). APT3 has previously introduced other browser-based zero-day attacks against Internet Explorer and Firefox. FireEye notes APT3's tactics are difficult to monitor given there's little overlap between campaigns, and the group typically moves quickly ("After successfully exploiting a target host, this group will quickly dump credentials, move laterally to additional hosts, and install custom backdoors," the new report states). According to the security researchers, APT3 has implemented these phishing schemes against companies in aerospace and defense, engineering, telecommunications, and transportation this year.

FireEye's report on CVE-2015-3113 offers much greater detail than Adobe's patch notes. For instance, the typical phishing e-mails were spam-like offers for refurbished iMacs:

"Save between $200-450 by purchasing an Apple Certified Refurbished iMac through this link. Refurbished iMacs come with the same 1-year extendable warranty as new iMacs. Supplies are limited, but update frequently.

Don't hesitate . . .>Go to Sale"

FireEye also broke down where unfortunate targets were directed after clicking such URLs—a compromised server hosting JavaScript profiling scripts. "Once a target host was profiled, victims downloaded a malicious Adobe Flash Player SWF file and an FLV file," FireEye reports. "This ultimately resulted in a custom backdoor known as SHOTPUT, detected by FireEye as Backdoor.APT.CookieCutter, being delivered to the victim’s system. The payload is obscured using xor encoding and appended to a valid GIF file."

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