Home > Security > With the latest round of Adobe Reader exploits please follow some simple best practices!

With the latest round of Adobe Reader exploits please follow some simple best practices!

PDF files have allowed computer users to share documents with a wide audience for quite some time now. They are great from an author’s standpoint. Just a few of their benefits include:

  • Documents can be viewed no matter what type of computer the audience has (Microsoft Windows, Mac, LINUX, Smartphone, etc…).
  • The author can control how the document will look when printed by the audience.
  • Documents can be locked to prevent them from being edited.
  • Documents can be digitally signed for security and/or legal reasons.

Those are just a few of the reasons people use PDF files every day. However, there is a downside to any type of document being so popular:  it will become a target of hackers!!!  In particular Adobe Reader has become a favorite target for software exploits.

There are some steps users can take to reduce the risk from these exploits. Here are some best practice items for everyone:

  • Insure you have anti-virus software installed. Also make sure it is set to automatically update its signature at least every day! Having an outdated anti-virus signature is almost as bad as having no anti-virus software at all.
  • Apply the latest security updates for you software. If you are using Microsoft Windows insure your computer is set to automatically update.  Programs like Adobe Reader are a little trickier, because people don’t think about them. But I would recommend going into any software you use often and do a “check for updates” on a regular basis.
  • Use a less popular yet equally functional competitor of the software in question. For PDF files in particular I no longer use Acrobat Reader. Instead I use a product called Foxit Reader. Foxit Reader has fewer known exploits. Notice I said “fewer known exploits”. The key is that Foxit Reader is not as widely distributed as Adobe Reader. Hackers are going to target the top software of a category for maximum impact. Foxit Reader may have as many exploits as Adobe Reader, but they haven’t been discovered because hackers are attacking Adobe.
  • NEVER open documents from a source you do not trust. Abstinence really is the best prevention!
  • Be wary of documents from trusted sources if you were not expecting a document. Just because a document comes from a friend does not mean it is safe. If you weren’t expecting a document from them I would email or call them to ask if they really meant to send it to me.

These steps will help for any software exploits, not just PDF’s.  However since Adobe Reader has become a top target of hackers it is very important that everyone take these few but necessary steps to protect their computer. I also hope the increase of exploits in Adobe Reader will not stop people from using PDF files. They really are great to work with. But just like any other software there are some security best practices which MUST be followed.

Categories: Security
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  1. January 5, 2011 at 09:47

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