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PDF Exploits: Forging Electronic Signatures

By Dick Weisinger

Billions of electronic signatures are made every year. Adobe reports that they alone enabled 8 billion electronic signature transactions in their cloud product in 2017.

A recent report by ResearchAndMarkets.com reports that the digital signature market size is expected to grow from $1.2 billion in 2018 to $5.5 billion in 2023. That’s 36 percent yearly growth.

A recent study by researchers in Germany found that PDF signatures could be forged. The research identified three different types of exploits. Of 22 different PDF viewers only the older Adobe Reader 9 product protected against the three types of exploits. Vulnerable viewers included Adobe Reader XI, Acrobat Reader DC, Nitro Reader, Foxit Reader, Perfect PDF Reader, and Soda PDF.

Besides PDF readers, only one of six PDF online validation services were found to not be vulnerable to the exploits. Vulnerable services included DocuSign and eTR.

The vendors have been notified of the problems and are working to create security patches.

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