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July 23, 2012

“International Technology Upgrade Week:” A Global Initiative to Encourage Consumers to Ensure Their Software is (and Stays) Up-to-Date

Earlier today, Skype—joined by Norton by Symantec and TomTom—kicked off “International Technology Upgrade Week,” a global initiative to encourage consumers to regularly download and install software updates. We’d like to chime in and express our support for this important initiative. Keeping software up-to-date is probably the single-most important advice we can give to users—consumers and businesses alike.

In preparation for International Technology Upgrade Week, Skype commissioned a survey of American, British and German consumers, which revealed the following findings:

  • 40 percent of adults don’t always update software on their computers when initially prompted to do so.
  • Approximately one quarter of those surveyed said they don’t clearly understand what software updates do, and an equal percentage don’t understand the benefits of updating.
  • While 75 percent of adults receive update notifications from their software, more than half admitted that they needed to see a prompt between two and five times before downloading and installing the update.

These findings are not surprising. Why is it that most of us don’t think twice about getting our cars serviced regularly, giving our bikes the occasional tune-up or being vigilant about keeping our homes in top shape, yet we are hesitant when it comes to keeping our computers and software programs up-to-date? Why are software updates so painful for us? Are we still having flashbacks to the ‘90s and early 2000s, when software updates would rather frequently “mess up” our computers?

Like it or not, reality is that software updates are still perceived as a major pain point for a large percentage of consumers*.  (*Of course, I completely recognize that business users in managed environments face their own, unique challenges when it comes to software updates. However, I’d like to focus this particular blog post on the average consumer for a change.)  I just returned from my 25-year high school reunion (yes, really…). While we were reminiscing about all the things that have changed in the 25 years since we graduated, technology in particular, software updates pretty much immediately became a discussion point—with everything from “I turn my computer on once a week: to do updates” to “I hate getting update notifications every time I turn on my laptop” represented. Not a single call with my family goes by without us talking about software updates: “It’s asking me to update xyz. Should I click ok?” (“Yes!”) Or “why don’t I get update notifications for Adobe Reader? How do I know I’ve been updated?” (“Because I set Adobe Reader up to update you automatically” and “If you missed the little icon telling you that you were updated, click ‘Help’ and ‘Check for Updates.’”) Even Rainn Wilson (aka Dwight Schrute from The Office) asked during the opening of the Adobe MAX 2011 Sneak Peaks “How do I stop the thing that says I need to get my updates? It keeps popping up on my screen. I don’t need updates.” (“Yes, you do!”)

We hear you—loud and clear. The good news is that times have changed. Especially for consumers, software updates have become much easier and much more reliable than they once were. Software vendors continuously look for ways to make the update process less cumbersome. For consumers, most software programs offer automatic update notifications. Some software programs—including Adobe Reader and Acrobat¹—make it even easier for consumers by providing an automatic update option. If you are using Adobe Reader or Acrobat on Windows, you can literally “set it and forget it.” Once your update preferences are set to update your software automatically, Adobe Reader and Acrobat will automatically check for new updates, download and install available updates—you won’t have to think about it again. If only getting our cars serviced were so easy…..

Still, in case you are wondering…..

Why do I need those updates? From a security perspective alone, staying up-to-date on the latest security patches is critical. The vast majority of attacks (up to 99.8 percent according to a recent study²) are exploiting software installations that are not current with the latest security updates. So staying up-to-date on your software is the best thing you can do to protect yourself (and your information) from the bad guys.

Do I need all those updates because your software is less secure and therefore targeted more often than other products out there? While one might be tempted to draw this conclusion, reality is quite different. The bad guys go where most of the users are—for the same reasons why a bank robber goes where most of the money is. The more popular and widely used a software product is with users, the more likely that product will become a target for the bad guys. The threat landscape is constantly changing. Security mechanisms are constantly adapting. Staying up-to-date on your software will provide you with the latest protections against the bad guys.

Why are you sending me update notifications every few days? Why are you issuing so many updates? Chances are, your update preferences are currently set to notify you when new updates are available. If you choose not to install the update, Adobe Reader and Acrobat will notify you again three days later. Getting the update notifications again three days after the initial notification (and three days after that, and so on) does not mean a new update is available every three days. It generally means that you have not yet accepted to install an update that was made available when you were initially notified. Once you accept to install the update, the notifications will disappear until the next update becomes available—typically a few months later. Even better, to avoid the update notifications altogether, Windows users can choose to receive Adobe Reader and Acrobat updates automatically—no user interaction required.

How do I make sure I have automatic updates selected? From the Adobe Reader or Acrobat product menu, go to Edit > Preferences > Updater, and ensure “Automatically install updates” is selected.

How do I know that an update has actually been installed when I have automatic updates selected? You will receive a notification letting you know that an Adobe Reader or Acrobat update was installed successfully. If you missed it, you can also perform update checks manually by choosing Help > Check for Updates. If no new updates are available, you are all set!

But doesn’t installing updates automatically slow down my system if I am trying to get other work done quickly at the same time? Nope. The Adobe Reader and/or Acrobat update will run in the background without noticeably impacting your work.

So what are you waiting for?! Join Skype, Norton by Symantec, TomTom and Adobe during this International Technology Upgrade Week, and take the time to make sure your software is—and stays—up-to-date. Choose automatic updates, if your software offers this option; or if it doesn’t, install updates when you first receive the update notification. Your computer—and information—will thank you!

Wiebke Lips
Twitter: @WiebkeLips

P.S.: Don’t miss the following blog posts around International Technology Upgrade Week from participating companies:

¹ Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.3.2 and 8.2.2 or later
² CSIS Study, September 2011, http://www.csis.dk/en/csis/news/3321

 

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3:07 PM Permalink
July 20, 2012

Three Common Adobe Reader and Acrobat Security Questions

I get a lot of great questions regarding Adobe Reader and Acrobat security. Recently, a few have been asked more frequently than others. So, I thought I’d share those with you.

Q: What is the Adobe Reader and Acrobat update schedule?

About three years ago, we moved to a quarterly update schedule for Adobe Reader and Acrobat. It was part of a major initiative to strengthen the security of our products. At the time, three-month update cycles seemed like the right cadence given the threat environment and the pace we were adding new mitigation capabilities into the products. Fast-forward three years, and technologies like Protected Mode in Adobe Reader and Protected View in Acrobat (sandboxes) have provided effective layers of defense, reducing the need for the ongoing quarterly cadence.

So, recently we announced a closer alignment with the Microsoft Patch Tuesday model. Instead of delivering updates on a quarterly schedule, we will provide Adobe Reader and Acrobat updates on the second Tuesday of any given month as needed throughout the year to best address customer requirements and keep all of our users safe. We will also continue to publish a prenotification on the Adobe Product Security Incident Response Team blog three business days before we release a security update, and we will continue to be flexible and respond “out-of-cycle” to urgent needs, such as a zero-day attack.

Q: How is Flash content being handled in Adobe Reader and Acrobat?

Starting with Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.5.1, we have classified Flash content into two categories, “known” and “unknown.” Known Flash content has been authored by Adobe and ships with the product. For instance, Portfolio Navigators and user interface elements are classified as known Flash content. Unknown Flash content has been authored outside of Adobe and does not ship with the product. For example, Custom Portfolio Navigators and Flash content embedded into PDFs are considered unknown. With this classification scheme, we are able to selectively render Flash content with different Flash Players. In 9.5.1 and later, we render known Flash content with an internal component embedded inside of Adobe Reader and Acrobat, and let the system Flash Player (NPAPI version) render the unknown content.

Since an attack would leverage unknown, as opposed to known, Flash content, this means that Adobe Reader/Acrobat 9.x users will no longer have to update Adobe Reader/Acrobat each time we update the Flash Player. This is particularly beneficial to customers in managed environments, because fewer updates means a lower cost of ownership, while maintaining a vigilant security posture. Keeping in mind that there is no silver bullet when it comes to security, we do follow a defense-in-depth security strategy. Therefore, even though we run all Flash content inside the sandbox in Adobe Reader and Acrobat X, where we’ve had great success thwarting attacks, we’ll still implement this new handling of Flash content into those products in the future. We’ll let you know when that happens.

Q: Can you explain the new security ratings?

In the past, security ratings were based on the worst-case scenario of a vulnerability without taking into account the presence or likelihood of an exploit. For a bit of background, a vulnerability is a code defect that can potentially be leveraged by an exploit to attack a system. Imagine the exact same code defect in two products. One product has a known exploit, while the other product has extra layers of defense that thwart the exploit from working. If you only consider the vulnerability, the security rating would look the same. But, if you consider the presence (or lack) of a functioning exploit as part of the security rating, you’ll get a different answer, and a better understanding of the threat, which in turn, provides better guidance on how quickly you should deploy the update.

This has happened with the introduction of new security mitigation technologies, like Adobe Reader Protected Mode (sandbox protections), which has made vulnerabilities much more difficult to exploit. Therefore, we’ve taken the degree of difficulty for exploit creation and included it in our new update priority ratings. We feel that this is the best way to clearly communicate real-world risk associated with the vulnerabilities addressed in any given security update.

Steve Gottwals
Group Product Manager
Adobe Acrobat Solutions Security

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7:38 PM Permalink
June 8, 2012

One Year from Now: Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9 EOL

For our customers who need longer lead times when transitioning from older versions of our software, this blog post is an early reminder that the Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9 End-of-Life will occur next year.

As stated in the Adobe Support Lifecycle Policy, Adobe provides five years of product support from the general availability date of Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat. In line with that policy, support for Adobe Reader 9.x and Adobe Acrobat 9.x will end on June 26, 2013.

End of Support
End of Support means that Adobe will no longer provide technical support or distribute runtimes, including product and/or security updates, for all derivatives of a product or product version (e.g. localized versions, minor upgrades, operating systems, dot and double-dot releases, and connector products).

Recommendation to Customers/Users
Adobe strongly recommends that customers update to the latest versions of Adobe Reader at: http://get.adobe.com/reader. By updating installations to the latest versions, customers benefit from the latest functional enhancements and improved security measures.

Additional Resources
For more information on the Adobe Support Lifecycle Policy, visit: http://www.adobe.com/support/products/enterprise/eol. For a complete list of Adobe products and technical support periods covered under the policy, visit: http://www.adobe.com/support/products/enterprise/eol/eol_matrix.html.

Steve Gottwals, Group Product Manager, Adobe Reader

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8:37 PM Permalink
June 4, 2012

Adobe Approved Trust List (AATL) Update – June 4, 2012

The Adobe Approved Trust List is a program that allows millions of users around the world to create digital signatures that are trusted whenever the signed document is opened in Adobe Reader or Acrobat software. Essentially, both Reader and Acrobat have been programmed to reach out to a web page to periodically download a list of trusted “root” digital certificates. Any digital signature created with a credential that can trace a relationship (“chain”) back to the high-assurance, trustworthy certificates on this list is trusted by Acrobat and Reader.

We just added three new members to the program! For a full list, or to try a sample document, visit: Adobe Approved Trust List Members. So, if you’re interested in obtaining an AATL-enabled certificate, contact one of the members. Or, if you’re interested in being a member of the AATL, you can send an email here.

Steve Gottwals, Group Product Manager, Adobe Reader

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8:40 PM Permalink
April 10, 2012

Adobe Reader and Acrobat X (10.1.3) and 9.5.1

Today, we announced the availability of Adobe Reader and Acrobat X (10.1.3) and 9.5.1. For more information regarding the security details in these releases, please see Security Bulletin APSB12-08. For detailed Release Notes, please see the Release Notes Library.

New Security Ratings
As stated in When Do I Need to Apply This Update – Adding Priority Ratings to Adobe Security Bulletins, we have updated our security ratings. We feel that this is the best way to clearly communicate real-world risk associated with the vulnerabilities addressed in any given security update. We hope that this proves beneficial to your patching prioritization processes.

Adobe EchoSign Integration
With this release, we further our integration with Adobe EchoSign, by adding new electronic signature types, including typewritten and hand-drawn. With Adobe EchoSign, customers can gain real-time visibility into the signature process and status of contracts, giving greater assurance and control over the management of all signed documents.

Adobe Reader for Mobile Devices
Also available today, is the latest version of Adobe Reader for mobile devices, which now lets users electronically sign a document by simply drawing their signature, making it easy to conduct business while on the go. The new capabilities for smartphones and tablets include:

  • Ink Signature Tool – users can add a hand-drawn signature to any document by simply using their finger;
  • Send for Signature – users can connect to Adobe EchoSign to get others to sign documents electronically, enabling senders to track and manage the status of documents online. In addition, signed contracts are archived in the cloud, making it easy for users to retrieve documents from anywhere, at any time, via a web browser.

Adobe Reader for mobile devices also adds new features that let people interact with PDF documents directly from their iOS or Android devices. These include:

  • Annotate – Users can choose the Highlight, Strikethrough, or Underline annotation tools, and drag over any text to easily markup text. Or they can select the text and add the markup from the context menu that appears.
  • Comment – Users can add Sticky Notes anywhere on a PDF document. Just choose the Note tool, tap, and add the comment.
  • Forms fill – Now, users can fill out simple PDF forms, save them, and forward them on to the recipient.

These new capabilities complement the wide range of features already available in Adobe Reader for mobile devices – including viewing PDF Portfolios, password-protected PDF documents and Adobe LiveCycle rights-managed PDF files; and opening and viewing PDF files from email, on the Web or from any application that supports the “Open In” function. The highly intuitive user interface provides an efficient PDF viewing experience regardless of the device.

Apple Safari and Adobe Reader/Acrobat
As mentioned previously in Compatibility Advisory Regarding Adobe Reader plug-in and Acrobat plug-in with Safari 5.1, Adobe Reader plug-in and Acrobat plug-in were not compatible with the Safari 5.1+ browser that currently ships with Mac OS X 10.7 and 10.6. Today’s update resolves the incompatibility with Safari in 64-bit mode. If you still require a 32-bit solution, this update also provides a Mozilla Firefox browser plug-in for those configurations. Note, a small number of functions relating to 3D and embedded Flash could render or operate incorrectly in some configurations. For those situations, try downloading the PDF file and opening it using the stand-alone Adobe Reader or Acrobat.

Flash Technology and 9.5.1
Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.5.1 no longer bundle a Flash Player with the application that plays Flash in PDF files. Flash technology content in PDF is now rendered via a separate Flash Player. Should you encounter a PDF that requires the external player, you will be prompted to download and install. If you would like to download it now, on Windows, visit: Adobe Reader and Acrobat Flash Player Download for Windows, and for Mac OS, visit: Adobe Reader and Acrobat Flash Player Download for Mac.

Further Alignment of the Adobe Reader/Acrobat Update Cycle with Microsoft’s Model
In June 2009, we shipped our first quarterly security update for Adobe Reader and Acrobat. Based on the risk mitigations we’ve put in place, and our continued efforts towards new layers of security, the landscape has changed and a strict quarterly release cycle is no longer warranted. We will continue to monitor the threat landscape, and provide timely updates on Patch Tuesdays as well as out-of-cycle updates as needed. But, moving forward, our update model will more closely resemble the familiar “Microsoft Patch Tuesday” model. This means, we will provide guidance on the release date for the next update as part of the prenotification advisory just prior to a given Patch Tuesday.

Steve Gottwals, Group Product Manager, Adobe Reader

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4:34 PM Permalink
March 27, 2012

Adobe Approved Trust List (AATL) Update

The Adobe Approved Trust List is a program that allows millions of users around the world to create digital signatures that are trusted whenever the signed document is opened in Adobe Reader or Acrobat software. Essentially, both Reader and Acrobat have been programmed to reach out to a web page to periodically download a list of trusted “root” digital certificates. Any digital signature created with a credential that can trace a relationship (“chain”) back to the high-assurance, trustworthy certificates on this list is trusted by Acrobat and Reader.

We just added five new members to the program! For a full list, or to try a sample document, visit: Adobe Approved Trust List Members. So, if you’re interested in obtaining an AATL-enabled certificate, contact one of the members. Or, if you’re interested in being a member of the AATL, you can send an email here.

Steve Gottwals, Group Product Manager, Adobe Reader

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4:19 PM Permalink
January 10, 2012

Adobe Reader and Acrobat X (10.1.2) and 9.5

Today, we announced the availability of Adobe Reader and Acrobat X (10.1.2) and 9.5. For more information regarding the security details in these releases, please see Security Bulletin APSB12-01. For detailed Release Notes, please see the Release Notes Library.

Adobe EchoSign
As we promised, we continue to integrate Adobe EchoSign technology into our document services – and now Adobe Reader users will be able to send PDF files to be signed from the application as well as sign documents electronically themselves. The new update makes Adobe Reader the application for getting documents signed electronically. This is just one more step to make it easier than ever for businesses to “seal the deal” and keep up with the demands of a growing mobile workforce. You can read more about how Adobe EchoSign and Reader work together here.

Printing PDF files
We’ve also taken a fresh look at printing PDFs. Printing a PDF file is something that all of us do a lot. In most cases, the PDF file was created in an orientation and page size that makes it very straight forward to print. In some cases, though, you want more control over how it comes out of the printer. For example, you might want to save paper by printing on both sides of a page or including multiple pages of the PDF file on a single piece of paper. Other times you might want to print a page in the PDF file across many pages of paper, so you can assemble them together into a poster. Those and many more options are now much easier to find. When you print from Adobe Reader 10.1.2, you’ll see a new print dialog that makes it much easier to print the way you want to.

New Print Dialog

New Print Dialog

Exporting PDF files
We all know that sometimes we need to export a PDF file to Word or Excel. We’ve made it easy to do just that directly from Adobe Reader through new integration with our Adobe ExportPDF service. Now when you click on the Export toolbar button the Tools pane will open on the right hand side to display a new Export PDF Files panel. Just select whether you want to convert to Word or Excel and click on Convert. You’ll need to be connected to the Internet and have an Adobe ExportPDF account. You’ll be able to sign up the first time you use it if you don’t already have an account.

ExportPDF Menu

ExportPDF Menu

ExportPDF Pane

ExportPDF Pane

New JavaScript Whitelisting Capability
Acrobat and Reader 9.5 and 10.1.2 also add a JavaScript whitelisting capability, allowing IT administrators to lockdown control over which documents can run JavaScript through Privileged Locations. This allows IT desktop managers to turn on JavaScript in Acrobat and Reader for their required workflows. For more information, see the Release Notes Library.

Apple Safari 5.1 and Adobe Reader/Acrobat workaround
Adobe Reader plug-in and Acrobat plug-in are currently not compatible with the Safari 5.1 browser that ships with Mac OS X 10.7 and 10.6 as stated in Compatibility Advisory Regarding Adobe Reader plug-in and Acrobat plug-in with Safari 5.1. While we continue to work on a solution to this problem, you can download our Firefox plug-in from Adobe Labs and use Mozilla’s Firefox browser with Reader and Acrobat 10.1.2 for your critical LiveCycle and Acrobat workflows.

Steve Gottwals, Group Product Manager, Adobe Reader

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6:55 PM Permalink
January 9, 2012

Adobe Reader for Android Update

In December we announced an update of Adobe Reader for Android that fixed some issues we discovered with Android 4, and added a few enhancements based upon the great feedback we received from our users. The highlights include the reintroduction of the Reflow Text feature, the ability to remember the last read position, the ability to open PDF Portfolio content and attachments, and bug fixes that had been present since the release of Android Ice Cream Sandwich. See the post on the Acrobat Blog for more details on these updates.

We’re constantly working to improve Adobe Reader for Phones and Tablets, and we have some great enhancements already underway in 2012 that I’m sure you’ll be excited to see. We appreciate your ongoing feedback and support!

Dennis Griffin, Principal Product Manager, Adobe

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8:47 PM Permalink
October 21, 2011

Where’s Reflow in Adobe Reader for Android 10.1?

Thanks to everyone who has downloaded, installed, and provided feedback on the most recent update for Adobe Reader for Android 10.1. While many users are happy with the updates we made in the release, we clearly made a mistake in removing the Reflow feature. We hear your comments and it’s our top priority to bring this feature back as quickly as possible. We will let you know as soon as we have additional updates.

Thank you for your continued support and feedback.

Dennis Griffin, Principle Product Manager, Adobe

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6:09 PM Permalink
October 17, 2011

Adobe Reader for iOS Now Available

We are excited to announce that today, Adobe Reader for iOS is available free on the Apple App Store. Just like Adobe Reader on the desktop, now you can use your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to quickly view and interact with the widest range of PDF file types – including PDF Portfolios, password-protected PDF documents and even Adobe LiveCycle rights-managed PDF files. For more details on Adobe Reader for iOS, including a video overview of the app, check out the blog from Anuj Gupta, product manager for Adobe Reader.

And, we just released Adobe Reader 10.1 for Android, offering many of the same great features for fast, high-quality interaction with PDF files on your Android smartphones and tablets. Simply scan the following QR code to download the latest version from Android marketplace. Enjoy!

QR Code: Adobe Reader for Android 10.1

Steve Gottwals, Group Product Manager, Adobe Reader

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4:12 PM Permalink