iDefense Security Advisory 01.13.09: RIM BlackBerry Enterprise Server Attachment Service PDF Distiller 'bitmaps' Heap Overflow Vulnerability

Type securityvulns
Reporter Securityvulns
Modified 2009-01-14T00:00:00



iDefense Security Advisory 01.12.09 Jan 12, 2009


The BlackBerry Enterprise Server is a suite of applications used to connect enterprise email and messaging services to BlackBerry device users. It consists of a variety of applications, one of which is the Attachment Service. This application is used to convert email attachments into a format that is easily rendered on BlackBerry devices. When a user requests an attachment on their BlackBerry device, the Attachment Service will obtain the attachment, parse and convert it, and then send it to the user for viewing. The Attachment Service is capable of converting a variety of different file formats, including PDF files. This vulnerability affects the PDF filter/distiller. For more information, see the vendor's site found at the following link.


Remote exploitation of a heap overflow vulnerability in Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM)'s BlackBerry Enterprise Server could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code with the privileges of the affected service, usually SYSTEM.

The vulnerability occurs when parsing a data stream inside of a PDF file. During parsing, a dynamic array is filled up with pointers to certain objects without properly checking to see whether the array is large enough to hold all of the pointers. By inserting a large number of pointers, it is possible to overflow the array, and corrupt object pointers. This can lead to the EIP register being controlled, which results in the execution of arbitrary code.


Exploitation of this vulnerability results in the execution of arbitrary code with the privileges of the Attachment Service, usually SYSTEM. In order to exploit this vulnerability, an attacker must e-mail an enterprise BlackBerry user a malicious PDF file. Then, the user must attempt to view the file on their device. It is important to note that a user must request the attachment in order to trigger the parsing. It is not possible to exploit this vulnerability in a completely automated fashion without a user asking to view the file. However, after a user has requested the attachment, no further interaction is necessary.

In Labs testing, it was possible to gain code execution, albeit unreliably. It is likely that with additional heap sculpting reliable code execution is possible.


iDefense has confirmed the existence of this vulnerability in BlackBerry Enterprise Server version 4.1.5 and 4.1.6 (4.1 SP5, SP6). 4.1.6 is the most current version, as of the publishing of this report. This vulnerability was confirmed in BlackBerry Enterprise Server for Microsoft Exchange, but is believed to affect the Lotus and Novell versions as well. Previous versions may also be affected.


It is possible to disable the PDF Distiller, which will prevent the conversion of PDF files by the Attachment Server. The following workaround was suggested by RIM for a previous PDF Distiller vulnerability, and has been verified to prevent the vulnerability described in this report. This workaround can be accomplished as follows:

To remove the PDF file extension from the list of supported file format extensions, complete the following actions:

  1. From the Windows Desktop, open the BlackBerry Server Configuration tool.
  2. Click the Attachment Server tab.
  3. In the Format Extensions field, delete pdf: from the colon delimited list of extensions.
  4. Click Apply.
  5. Click OK.

After this, it is also necessary to completely disable the PDF distiller from loading, which will prevent an attacker from renaming a PDF to some other format extension. In order to do this, complete the following steps:

  1. On the Windows Desktop, open the BlackBerry Server Configuration tool.
  2. Click the Attachment Server tab.
  3. In the Configuration Option drop-down list, select Attachment Server.
  4. In the Distiller Settings section, next to the distiller name Adobe PDF, clear the check box in the Enabled column.
  5. Click Apply.
  6. Click OK.
  7. On the Windows Desktop, in Administrative Tools, open Services.
  8. Right-click BlackBerry Attachment Service and click Stop.
  9. Right-click BlackBerry Attachment Service and click Start.
  10. Close Services.

In Microsoft Exchange and Novell GroupWise environments, complete the following additional steps:

  1. On the Windows Desktop, in Administrative Tools, open Services.
  2. Right-click BlackBerry Dispatcher and click Stop.
  3. Right-click BlackBerry Dispatcher and click Start.
  4. Close Services.

In IBM Lotus Domino environments, complete the following additional steps:

  1. Open the IBM Lotus Domino Administrator.
  2. Click the Server tab.
  3. Click the Status tab.
  4. Click Server Console.
  5. In the Domino Command field, type tell BES quit and press ENTER.
  6. In the Domino Command field, type load BES and press ENTER.
  7. Close the IBM Lotus Domino Administrator.


Research In Motion (RIM) has released a patch which addresses this issue. For more information, consult their advisories at the following URLs:


A Mitre Corp. Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) number has not been assigned yet.


12/17/2008 Initial Vendor Notification 12/17/2008 Initial Vendor Reply 12/17/2008 PoC Code Provided To Vendor 12/17/2008 Request Additional Information 01/06/2009 Additional Vendor Feedback 01/12/2009 Coordinated Public Disclosure


This vulnerability was discovered by Sean Larsson, iDefense Labs.

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Copyright © 2009 iDefense, Inc.

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