Who Is

watching out for you?

In today's world you need to understand a few more things...

Who Is

knocking on your virtual front door?

It could be someone down the block or from the Bloc

Finding success in the sandbox

image of Steve Gottwals

12-Feb-2013 - Having been stung by references that its PDF Reader was the vector

of choice for malicious attacker, Adobe continues to invest in security.

“Finding success with the sandbox has helped make PDF less attractive to attacks, and sends attackers looking for easier targets,” said Steve Gottwals, Group Product Manager, Adobe Acrobat Services Security.

“It really moved the needle for us.”

The original Reader 10 sandbox focused on rights-based attacks, or those in which someone tries to install malware on your system.

“We never blocked read-based attacks, and were always up front about that,” Gottwals said. “A read-based attack is more about trying to crash a program to siphon data from the system and send it else where. It’s a data extraction attack. We know these are theoretically possible, even tho we’ve never seen them.”

With Reader 11 Adobe implemented blocking of read-based attacks, also changing the underlying architecture.

“It gets down to a separate desktop and Windows station under the OS that creates a stronger sandbox, and that prevents attacks people have conjured up with Windows,” he said.

Since customers want more control over what PDFs are allowed to open, Adobe has also been doing some things with white-listing, especially around java script. You can turn off java script on your clients, and keep it turned off unless it’s a PDF you trust for some reason.

For example, if it’s coming from a specific host, say your intranet, then it automatically turns on java script for that document.

“We also allow digital signing,” said Gottwals “We came at it from the PKI side, and with the acquisition of Echosign we’re mixing up the eSignature and digital signatures. You can do simple signing-in based on your authentication and approval. You can lay down an electronic version of your handwritten signature. The service applies a certified version when you’re finished. As that document leaves that service, you’ll know it came from Adobe Echosign, and by opening it in Reader you’ll know it hasn’t been altered or tampered with. It’s useful when you want to track documents, where they go, and things of that nature about your documents.”

 A rights-management offering for PDF is designed to let you encrypt a PDF against a server, while the server holds onto the encryption key. To open it in the wild, the person opening must authenticate with that server. Then they’re given the key that opens the document.

“Granted anybody can take a picture of your screen, however you’re getting a document audit trail,” Gottwals said. “You can also revoke access by changing permission dynamically. We’re using geo-location and analytics machines to see where documents are being opened. If someone has tried to open a doc multiple times and failed, we see those kinds of things.”  

Since content needs to go to people, it’s difficult to keep it in one place. You must allow it to go to those who need it.

“And you want an audit trail, and to understand where your information is being used and how it’s opened, so you can secure the best you can,” said Gottwals. “We’re only getting more mobile, right? And Reader 11 for mobile supports this technology.”

The new mentality is to assume the breach. Assume the bad guys are in, and provide new ways of securing your content.

“Rights management is not a service offering... yet,” Gottwals said. “As we know, everything is moving to the cloud, and this is very attractive for a cloud offering. You can think about storing documents in a separate location from where you store encryption-decryption keys.”