ElcomSoft rubbishes eBook security ahead of Sklyarov case

Shot across the bows

ElcomSoft, the Russian firm at the centre of the Dmitry Sklyarov case, has published an advisory detailing fresh flaws with Adobe's eBook software.

The flaw, which concerns a demonstration application, isn't as severe as it may at first seem and its publication by ElcomSoft - without first informing Adobe of the issue - is best seen as a preamble to their upcoming legal fight.

According to an advisory on BugTraq, Adobe Content Server 3.0 library features are subject to three flaws which would allow crackers to play merry hell. The advisory explains how it might be possible to download and modify the Web script of a loan form to take out a book for however long you want or obtain multiple copies of a book, leaving other 'patrons' unable to take out books.

Adobe's "lending library" Web page is only an illustration and what's possible with the software (in this case lending out PDF files 'protected' with its rights management software) so it seems unlikely that users would be seriously inconvenienced by the problem. The ElcomSoft advisory does however cast serious doubts on Adobe's claims that its Content Server software is "highly secure".

ElcomSoft can't resists having a dig in its advisory.

"Some time ago we have found much more serious problem with another Adobe software and reported it to the vendor; however, there was no response at all, and so we decided not to waste our time reporting this one (about the library) to Adobe," it writes.

The more serious problem, of course, concerns the pitifully weak "copy protection" used by Adobe's eBook reader, which was highlighted in a now notorious presentation to last year's Defcon by Sklyarov. Adobe decided to instigate proceedings against Sklyarov, and his employer ElcomSoft, using the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, setting off an explosive chain of events.

Sklyarov was arrested and slung into jail in July last year, following his presentation at Defcom, simply for writing and coding software that exposed the flaws in Adobe's software. The Russian programmer faced charges punishable by up to 25 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

Adobe attracted huge opprobrium for its actions, and in the face of a self-inflicted public relations nightmare, quickly withdrew support for prosecution. However, the Department of Justice took up the reins and even though Sklyarov was released on bail of $50,000 in August, he still had to remain in the US until December, when a deal was made.

That leaves the case against ElcomSoft, which is set to go trial later this year. ®

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