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PDF Exploits And How To Prevent Them



Votiro Cloud proactively sanitizes hidden and unknown threats from files at scale. While the Log4j exploit is wide-reaching and Log4j can be exploited in many ways, Votiro can help protect against exploits delivered via documents.




PDF Exploits and how to prevent them



Disable JavaScript in Adobe Reader and AcrobatDisabling JavaScript prevents these vulnerabilities from being exploited and reduces attack surface. If this workaround is applied to updated versions of the Adobe Reader and Acrobat, it may protect against future vulnerabilities.


Disable the display of PDF documents in the web browserPreventing PDF documents from opening inside a web browser reduces attack surface. If this workaround is applied to updated versions of the Adobe Reader and Acrobat, it may protect against future vulnerabilities.To prevent PDF documents from automatically being opened in a web browser with Adobe Reader:


Jailbreaking and rooting are terms for gaining administrator access to iOS and Android mobile devices. These types of attacks take advantage of vulnerabilities in the mobile OSs to achieve root access on these devices. These increased permissions enable an attacker to gain access to more data and cause more damage than with the limited permissions available by default. Many mobile users will jailbreak/root their own devices to enable them to delete unwanted default apps or install apps from untrusted app stores, making this attack even easier to perform.


First, you may be wondering how a PDF file may become infected. Through Javascript, system commands, hidden objects, and multimedia control, malware can easily be injected into a file. PDFs are easy to edit, therefore making them a perfect target for hackers to hide malicious code in. And since PDFs have the ability to execute code right on your device, PDF malware can be especially harmful.


Cybercrime is built around the efficient exploitation of vulnerabilities, and security teams are always at a disadvantage because they must defend all possible entry points, while an attacker only needs to find and exploit one weakness or vulnerability. This asymmetry highly favors any attacker, with the result that even large enterprises struggle to prevent cybercriminals from monetizing access to their networks -- networks that typically must maintain open access and connectivity while trying to protect enterprise resources.


Malware, or malicious software, is an umbrella term used to refer to a hostile or intrusive program or file that is designed to exploit devices at the expense of the user and to the benefit of the attacker. There are various types of malware, but they all use evasion and obfuscation techniques designed to not only fool users, but also evade security controls so they can install themselves on a system or device surreptitiously without permission. Here are some of the most common types of malware:


Ransomware is now the most prominent type of malware. It is usually installed when a user visits a malicious website or opens a doctored email attachment. It exploits vulnerabilities on the device to encrypt important files, such as Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDF files, databases and critical system files, making them unusable. The attacker then demands a ransom in exchange for the decryption key needed to restore the locked files. The attack may target a mission-critical server or try to install the ransomware on other devices connected to the network before activating the encryption process so they are all hit simultaneously. To increase the pressure on victims to pay, the attackers often threaten to sell or leak data exfiltrated during the attack if the ransom is not paid.


Everyone is a possible target, from individuals and small businesses through to major organizations and government agencies. The attacks can have a seriously damaging impact on the victim and its clients. The WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017 affected organizations in over 150 countries, with the disruption to hospitals costing the U.K.'s National Health Service alone around $111 million. More recently, an attack on the meat retailer JBS Foods in 2021 caused meat shortages across the U.S. To avoid ongoing disruption, the company paid a ransom of $11 million, while Colonial Pipeline paid a $5 million ransom after a ransomware attack shut down one of the country's largest pipelines. Ransomware is such a serious problem that there is an official U.S. government website called StopRansomware that provides resources to help organizations prevent ransomware attacks, as well as a checklist on how to respond to an attack.


2021 saw another large rise in the number of DDoS attacks, many of them disrupting critical infrastructures around the world; ransom DDoS attacks increased by 29%. Attackers are also harnessing the power of AI to understand what kinds of attack techniques work best and to direct their botnets -- slave machines used to perform DDoS attacks -- accordingly. Worryingly, AI is being used to enhance all forms of cyber attack.


Spear phishing attacks are directed at specific individuals or companies, while whaling attacks are a type of spear phishing attack that specifically targets senior executives within an organization. One type of whaling attack is the business email compromise (BEC), where the attacker targets specific employees who have the ability to authorize financial transactions in order to trick them into transferring money into an account controlled by the attacker. The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center said that BEC attacks made up the majority of incidents reported in 2021, accounting for 19,954 complaints and losses of around $2.4 billion.


A man-in-the-middle (MiTM) attack is where attackers secretly intercept and relay messages between two parties who believe they are communicating directly with each other, but in fact, the attackers have inserted themselves in the middle of the online conversation. The attackers can read, copy or change messages before forwarding them on to the unsuspecting recipient, all in real time. A successful MiTM attack can allow hackers to capture or manipulate sensitive personal information, such as login credentials, transaction details and credit card numbers.


The importance of unions has been even further heightened by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the national protests around racial justice. In recent months, thousands of nonunion workers walked off their jobs demanding personal protective equipment, hazard pay, and access to sick leave. The concrete realization that these things could only be won through collective action has also led many of these workers to seek to unionize in order to protect themselves and their families. At the same time, the importance of the power of collective bargaining for essential workers and Black workers has become clearer. Unionization has helped bring living wages to once low-wage jobs in industries such as health care and is a key tool for closing racial wage gaps. In recent years the Black Lives Matter movement has joined with the fight for a $15 minimum wage and other union efforts in order to win economic dignity for African American workers.


Current events make the need to reform labor laws even more urgent. The COVID-19 pandemic and the national protests around racial justice have heightened the importance of unions. As the pandemic swept across the country, thousands of nonunion workers walked off their jobs demanding personal protective equipment, hazard pay, and access to sick leave. The concrete realization that these things could only be won through collective action has also led many of these workers to seek to unionize in order to protect themselves and their families.9 At the same time, the importance of the power of collective bargaining for essential workers and Black workers has become clearer. Unionization has helped bring living wages to once low-wage jobs in industries such as health care and is a key tool for closing racial wage gaps.10 In recent years the Black Lives Matter movement has joined with the fight for a $15 minimum wage and other union efforts in order to win economic dignity for African American workers.11


While it may be hard to justify the time and money spent on fighting the union in terms of the costs of this group of 100 employees, this expense may be more logical when understood as an investment in preventing higher wages from spreading to the rest of its workforce.


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