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RIM squashes BlackBerry PDF peril

Purple alert over high-impact bugs

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

Research in Motion (RIM) has published a patch that fixes a pair of critical flaws in the way BlackBerry servers handle malformed PDF files.

The two related security updates address vulnerabilities in the PDF Distiller of the BlackBerry Attachment Service for BlackBerry Unite and BlackBerry Enterprise Server, respectively. As a result of the bugs, hackers might be able to inject hostile code onto computer systems running the BlackBerry Attachment Service, providing they can trick the user of a BlackBerry smartphone into opening a maliciously crafted PDF attachment, contained in an email message sent to them.

RIM advises enterprises that use BlackBerry to roll out patches sooner rather than later. Its suggested workaround - disabling the receipt of PDF attachments - may be tough to live with for many organisations, given the widespread use of the document technology.

The vulnerabilities were discovered by security researchers at iDefense and earn a Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) rating of 9.3, on a scale of one to 10, placing them far into the top end of the risk spectrum.

Security advisories on the issue from RIM can be found here and here.

The potential impact of the bugs, and potential future flaws like them, underlines at least one of the reasons why White House information security specialists are keen to wean President-Elect Barack Obama off his BlackBerry before he takes office next week. ®

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