Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mostly Harmless: Adobe Updater Requests Administrative Privileges!!!

Consider me profoundly ticked off at Adobe. This is the last straw for me regarding their Adobe Updater program. It has now been DELETED off my computer, and I suggest you do the same.

I really hope I am being alarmist about what Adobe just tried to pull on me and I get lots of letters ranting at me about my foolishness. But I believe what I just witnessed on my Mac has tipped Adobe into the Evil Zone.

Back Story:

For the last several years it has been at times hell-on-Earth updating Adobe programs via the Internet. I have never, ever seen a more diabolically BAD system for updating programs. I've written to them about it several times as have hundreds of other people.

So this past year Adobe figured out they had a PR problem and offered professionals the opportunity to describe the problems with Adobe's update system. Hundreds of people again contacted Adobe. So everything is going to get all better now. Right?

Adobe wants to rule your Mac:

Tonight I got notification from good old that Adobe Reader version 9.1 had been released. It is a critical update that plugs some very bad security holes. Everyone should update ASAP. So of course I did the update.

As per usual, stupid Adobe couldn't do just one simple update, they had to ask me again and again for permission to install stuff. Among the added rubbish was yet another version of Adobe Updater. Clearly, nothing has been improved in Adobe's idiotic updating system over the Internet.

Then came the very-very last step: A box requesting my password, for a SECOND TIME, allowing Adobe Updater to have ADMINISTRATIVE PRIVILEGES, forever!

Stop and consider that a second. An application asked me if it could always have administrative privileges to do whatever it wanted to my computer at any time. IOW Adobe Updater was asking if it could rule my computer. This is called evil. (OK, now you can tell me I'm paranoid. But I don't think so!)

My response:

I canceled the request.

And for good measure I DELETED Adobe Updater from my computer.

Then I wrote the following to Adobe:

I just installed Adobe Reader 9.1 for Mac OS X.

Why did Adobe Updater ask me for my password so it could run, at will, with Administrative Privileges?

This is profoundly insecure, DANGEROUS and a bad idea in ALL situations.

As a result I CANCELED this privileges request. I also took Adobe Updater and ERASED IT from my computer. Adobe Updater will remain erased from my Macintosh computer until such time as Adobe explains itself regarding this DANGEROUS request. It had better be good. I will be publishing my disgust regarding your privileges request on the Internet and in computer user group newsletters this coming week.
And so I have. And if (a big if) Adobe get off the arrogance kick and actually respond, I'll let you know and share what they say. You can start holding your breath . . . NOW.

Until then:

Clutch your Mac firmly to your breast. Adobe are coming to take it away.


  1. At this point in time I've had some friends test this installation rubbish. Those who already had the new version of Adobe Updater did not encounter the second password request. So what we apparently have going is the usual boring run around whereby the old updater needs permission to install the new updater, which needs its own permission to install the actual Adobe Reader program. Zzzzzz. I will be going through a reproduction of the situation later this week.

    Conclusion so far: Not likely to be dangerous. Therefore I altered my original article title to say "Mostly Harmless" until such time as I decide to scrap the article entirely and save up the story for my lambasting of Adobe in general some other time.

  2. The same this is happening to me. How do I delete this Adobe Updater piece of %&@! from my Mac? The updater does not seem to be a separate app and there is no updater remove option in its preferences.

  3. Dear John,

    Adobe put their Updater apps inside the Utilities folder, inside one of a couple possible further folders, at least according to my experience:

    /Applications/Utilities/Adobe Installers
    /Applications/Utilities/Adobe Utilities

    In the second case you'll find another folder called 'Adobe Updater5'. Inside that may be an Adobe Updater application.

    What you do is: Identify ALL copies of Adobe Updater. You may have more than one. Click on the Adobe Updater application(s) and toss them in the trash. Empty the trash. FORCE empty the trash if you have to. Then double check that you have removed ALL copies of Adobe Updater.

    To stop Adobe for sneaking in another copy I then LOCK the 'Adobe Updater5' folder. This stops anything from getting in there until I unlock it again. It also can't be deleted by Adobe. It's stuck there. Adobe can't put more junk in it. So far the result for me has been heaven.

    Meanwhile, I keep track of every Adobe update of interest to me by using or When Adobe offers an update , I read about it, decide if I want it, if I do I download the update MYSELF, then do the update, MYSELF. I can't tell you how much more sane and pleasant it is to completely derail Adobe auto-updating hell.

    Clearly, Adobe are never going to improve their crap auto-updating process. No way will they ever bother with Sparkle, which is vastly more simple, secure, unobtrusive and free. My theory is that they are super control freaks with a twinge of disrespectful attitude toward their customers and a big dollop of marketing moron cluelessness. There are worse companies by far. But I'm the boss of me, not Adobe. Trashing their trash makes me happy.

  4. Dealing with Adobe Updater 6:

    In Adobe Reader 9, Adobe is now using Adobe Updater 6. There is also a self-healing system built into Reader 9. The first time you run Reader 6 you will find that a new folder is created inside
    /Applications/Utilities/Adobe Utilities/
    The folder is called 'Adobe Updater6' and contains version 6 of the Updater program. If you toss this program you will find it returns the next time you boot Reader 9. As with Adobe Updater 5, you need to LOCK the Adobe Updater6 folder to stop re-spawning Adobe Updater v6. Doing this is a bit of a pain. But here is how:

    1) Do a Get Info on the Adobe Updater 6 folder.
    2) Add yourself to the Permissions list. You will have to provide the Administrator password.
    3) Give yourself 'Read & Write' privileges.
    4) Highlight the 'system' privileges listing and change it to 'Read only' privileges.
    5) Highlight yourself in the Privileges list.
    6) Click on the gear pop-up menu below and choose 'Make "[you] (me)" the owner'.
    7) You now have access to the 'Locked' checkbox. Check 'Locked'.

    Now that you own the 'Adobe Updater6' folder and have locked it, you will not have any trouble with Adobe Updater v6 again. Instead Adobe Reader v6 will immediately boot up with no self-healing nonsense.

    The future: When Adobe update to Adobe Updater v7, we'll have to dump-and-block it all over again.

    Remember to keep track of when Adobe Reader is updated! Adobe are frequently providing security updates. (Use VersionTracker et al.) Then manually update to the latest version of Adobe Reader.