Didier Stevens

Monday 9 March 2009

Quickpost: /JBIG2Decode “Look Mommy, No Hands!”

Filed under: Malware,PDF,Quickpost,Vulnerabilities — Didier Stevens @ 7:11

My previous blogpost showed how minimal user interaction can still get a malicious PDF document to infect a machine. Remembering F-Secure’s misadventure with .WMF and Google Desktop Search, I took some time to look at Windows Indexing Service. The news is not good. This time, I can get a PoC PDF document to trigger the /JBIG2Decode bug without any user interaction whatsoever. And the bug happens in a process running with Local System rights!

On a Windows XP SP2 machine with Windows Indexing Services started and Adobe Acrobat Reader 9.0 installed, there is absolutely no user interaction required to trigger the /JBIG2Decode vulnerability. When the PoC PDF file is on the disk, it will be indexed by Windows Indexing Services and the buggy /JBIG2Decode code will be executed.

When Adobe Acrobat Reader 9.0 is installed, it also installs an IFilter (AcroRdIF.dll). This COM object extends the Windows Indexing Service with the capability to read and index PDF documents. When the Windows Indexing Service encounters a PDF file, it will index it. The content indexing daemon (cidaemon.exe) calls the Acrobat IFilter (AcroRdIF.dll) which loads the Acrobat PDF parser (AcroRD32.dll). If the PDF document contains a malformed /JBIG2Decode stream object, it will result in an access violation in the instruction at 0x01A7D89A.

In other words, if you’ve a malicious PDF document on a machine with Windows Indexing Services, it can infect your machine. And you don’t need a user to open or select the PDF document.

The good news is that Windows Indexing Services is not started on a default Windows XP SP2 install. Update: Although Windows Indexing Services is not on by default, after you’ve executed a search as local admin, you’ll be asked if you want “to make future searches faster”. If you answer yes, Windows Indexing Services will be automatically started.
The bad news is that Windows Indexing Services runs under the local system account on Windows XP SP2. This results in a privilege escalation.

Consider a Windows machine with Windows Indexing Services running, Adobe Acrobat reader installed and a file sharing service (FTP/IIS/P2P/…). Uploading a specially crafted PDF document to this machine will give you a local system shell.

To disable Windows Indexing Services’ capability to index PDF documents, unregister the IFilter: regsvr32 /u AcroRdIf.dll

But IFilters are also used by other software:

  • Microsoft Search Server 2008
  • Windows Desktop Search
  • SharePoint
  • SQL Server (full-text search)

My PoC PDF file also triggers in /JBIG2Decode in Windows Desktop Search (I tested version 4.0). But Windows Desktop Search has a better security architecture than Windows Indexing Service. Although the service runs under the Local System account, the actual calling of the IFilters is done in a separate process that runs under the Local Service account (this account has less privileges and can’t take full control of the machine).


I’ve not analyzed other applications using IFilters. If you use ScarePoint (that’s how my wife, who has to work with it, calls it) or another IFilter supporting application and you want to be safe, unregister the Acrobat IFilter.

And don’t forget that, depending on  your Windows version and CPU, you’re also protected by technologies like DEP and ASLR.

Google Desktop Search doesn’t use IFilters, unless you’ve installed this plugin to add IFilter support to Google Desktop Search.

Blog at WordPress.com.