Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

TSA Breach Exposes PDF File Risk

Simply blacking out information in a Portable Document Format file won't keep data from prying eyes.

Employees at the Transportation Security Administration inadvertently exposed classified information about the agency's security procedures because, apparently, they don't know how PDF documents work.

What's not clear is how many other government departments, legal agencies, healthcare providers, and other organizations that deal with sensitive information are unaware that a quirk in Adobe's Portable Document Format can leave data open to prying eyes.

TSA officials posted what they thought was a redacted version of the TSA's airport security operating manual on a Web site used by private contractors looking for government work. The problem: the officials didn't actually delete sensitive parts of the document—they just blacked them out using a graphics tool.

That method left the underlying words intact, and they were exposed when readers cut and pasted pages from the document, "Screening Management Standard Operating Procedures," into a new file. The vulnerability isn't technically a bug in Adobe's product, but its existence shows how those handling secure information should be fully trained in the software they're using.

The end result of the foul-up was that highly sensitive information about TSA screening methods, interviewing procedures, X-ray machines and other terrorist prevention tools became easily available to millions of people on the Web.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Wednesday promised Senate Judiciary Committee members that her department would launch a full probe of the incident and take unspecified actions against those involved.

At the same time, Napolitano said the breach did not put the flying public at risk because the manual was outdated and many of the procedures it outlines have changed since its publication last year.

Some lawmakers, however, were not convinced. U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Me), the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, called the incident "shocking" and "reckless."

"I intend to ask DHS how this security breach could have happened, what specific actions will be taken to prevent this type of reckless dissemination from ever occurring again, and how it will remedy the damage that has already been done," said Collins, in a statement.

InformationWeek's Dark Reading and Black Hat come together for their first-ever complimentary virtual event, which will explore the most dangerous threats of the next 10 years -- and what you can do today to protect your enterprise from them. It happens Wednesday, Dec. 9. Find out more and register.

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/14/2020
Researcher Finds New Office Macro Attacks for MacOS
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  8/7/2020
Lock-Pickers Face an Uncertain Future Online
Seth Rosenblatt, Contributing Writer,  8/10/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-4662
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
IBM Event Streams 10.0.0 could allow an authenticated user to perform tasks to a schema due to improper authentication validation. IBM X-Force ID: 186233.
CVE-2019-20383
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
ABBYY network license server in ABBYY FineReader 15 before Release 4 (aka 15.0.112.2130) allows escalation of privileges by local users via manipulations involving files and using symbolic links.
CVE-2020-24348
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
njs through 0.4.3, used in NGINX, has an out-of-bounds read in njs_json_stringify_iterator in njs_json.c.
CVE-2020-24349
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
njs through 0.4.3, used in NGINX, allows control-flow hijack in njs_value_property in njs_value.c. NOTE: the vendor considers the issue to be "fluff" in the NGINX use case because there is no remote attack surface.
CVE-2020-7360
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
An Uncontrolled Search Path Element (CWE-427) vulnerability in SmartControl version 4.3.15 and versions released before April 15, 2020 may allow an authenticated user to escalate privileges by placing a specially crafted DLL file in the search path. This issue was fixed in version 1.0.7, which was r...