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Adobe Reader Vulnerability 

December 17th, 2009

It has come to our attention that there is a zero-day, unpatched vulnerability in Adobe’s PDF Reader/Acrobat software that allows data from a compromised computer to be hijacked.  You can find information concerning the vulnerability at

MAC Users Please Note: Because this attack utilizes Java and JavaScript, MACs are also vulnerable to it!!

As indicated in the article:

1.   There currently is no patch or update available from Adobe that completely protects against this exploit.
2.   There is little to no detection of these malicious PDF files from most of the major Antivirus vendors, including the software used at PSU.

Because of this, OIS has elected, for those computers on the domain, to “push” out the recommended solution of disabling JavaScript in Adobe Acrobat.  What that means is that, for those people whose computer is on the domain, we will automatically take care of managing the solution for you. If you are not sure whether your computer is on the domain, you can follow the instructions above to check and/or set your preference settings.

For those people whose computers are not on the domain, we would urge you to do the following:


  1. Launch Adobe Reader by going to “Start”, “All Programs” and then look for the Adobe program/icon and click on it.
  2. Click on “Edit” (upper left) and then “Preferences”. 
  3. In the left column, select “JavaScript”. 
  4. Uncheck the “Enable Acrobat JavaScript” box. 
  5. Click on OK to save the preferences.


  1. MAC users can use their “Finder” to launch Adobe Reader. 
  2. Then click on “Adobe Reader” in upper left of the screen and select “Preferences”.
  3.  In the left column, select “JavaScript”. 
  4. Uncheck the “Enable Acrobat JavaScript” box. 
  5. Click on OK to save the preferences.

**Unfortunately, disabling JavaScript will disable some of the functionality that you may find in certain PDF documents.  An example would be in the following form:

With JavaScript enabled, the totals will auto-fill as you put amounts in the columns.  With JavaScript disabled, this auto-fill will not occur.

New versions of Adobe Reader, when you open a PDF that contains JavaScript while this setting is disabled, a gold bar will appear at the top which will enable you to allow JavaScript on a document by document basis, however it is reported that there are some bugs if you try to trust more than one document.

As always, it is important to remember that you should not click on any link or document that comes in an email from a source that you do not know and trust.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.  As stated above, if you have problems with checking and/or setting your preferences, please contact your tech or the Gorilla Geeks at extension 4600.  We will be happy to walk you through the process or have someone come by your office, if needed.

Have a Great Holiday and Safe Computing!!!

Kathy Sanley
Interim Director, OIS
Pittsburg State University