I've read that PDFs are increasingly being used as part of advanced persistent threat attack campaigns. Could you describe some of the latest techniques attackers use in PDF attacks, and can you suggest tools to use for scanning PDFs for malicious inclusions? Or should antimalware/email scans already be picking up on such threats?
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Advanced persistent threat (APT) attack campaigns are likely using PDF files because most regular users assume they are safe to open, as PDFs are widely accepted in both business and everyday email attachments. By using phishing emails masquerading as fax messages, scans from a multi-function printer, delivery notices, etc., the hacker is hoping to entice the user to open the "trusted"-yet-malicious file.
To mitigate these threats posed by PDF malware, it is critical to combine security awareness and technical controls, since neither method will protect all scenarios on its own.
Simply put, traditional antimalware or email scans will not catch these new PDF malware attacks. However, security tools that open PDFs in a sandbox environment can be used to identify malicious behavior from the PDF.
This was first published in November 2013