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Security experts warn of potential malicious AIR code

Adobe AIR comes with security best practices, but some experts worry developers will ignore them.

Robert Vamosi Former Editor
As CNET's former resident security expert, Robert Vamosi has been interviewed on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and other outlets to share his knowledge about the latest online threats and to offer advice on personal and corporate security.
Robert Vamosi

On Monday, Adobe Systems rolled out its new Web 2.0 development tool, Adobe Integrated Runtime, or AIR. Following its release were some concerns from the security community.

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen talks up AIR at a San Francisco event. Charles Cooper/CNET News.com

AIR, formerly Adobe Apollo, is a runtime environment that allows developers use HTML, Flash, AJAX, Flex, and other Web 2.0 tools to create desktop applications. One such application built using Adobe AIR comes from Nickelodeon Online.

But some security experts are concerned about local file access by AIR applications. Recently, Firefox experienced a vulnerability that could have allowed remote attackers to access a targeted file system. To mitigate this, Adobe says it implemented a sandboxing environment, however, Adobe's documentation suggests that the sandboxes are less secure than a Web browser's sandbox.

Additionally, Adobe says that AIR applications need to be digitally signed, however, these certificates can be self-signed. And many users will ignore the warnings and run untrusted applications.

Finally, there is the potential for Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), SQL injection, and local link injection. While these threats are not limited to Adobe AIR, developers could gain a false sense of security by relying only on AIR's weaker sandbox protection.

Adobe has also provided the following: an informative article titled "Introduction to AIR security" and a white paper, "AIR Security" (PDF). But Lenny Zeltser, writing on the Sans Internet Storm Center site, notes that "many developers will be unaware of Adobe AIR security best practices or will knowingly take shortcuts that expose end users to attacks."