PDFs & Viruses?

Subject: PDFs & Viruses?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Anthony <italian_scribbles -at- yahoo -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 17 Jan 2007 15:43:07 -0500

Anthony wonders: <<Has anyone heard of any problems concerning the use of PDF files to spread viruses to business networks? One of my firm's clients is considering banning the posting of PDFs on its network for this reason.>>

It used to be (back in the early days of Acrobat) that you could specify "actions" in a PDF, such as running an .exe file, that were a potential source of problems. Some of these actions required a mouse click; some could be triggered by nothing more complicated than turning to a new a page. (I recall embarrassing the hell out of a senior Adobe manager at a local computer group meeting when I pointed this out.) No idea whether or how Adobe fixed this, but I'd assume it's no longer an issue -- otherwise it would be in every newspaper.

However, there have been several reports of various "exploits" that are possible using PDFs in the past year or so. Details were scarce (that is, I don't recall seeing the gory details in any of several newsletters I subscribe to), but Adobe hurriedly released several critical upgrades to various versions of their Adobe Reader software. This suggests the problem is that your client should update their copy of Reader, and set all copies to automatically check for updates when launched, rather than banning PDFs outright.

After all, if they're using Windows, PDFs are the least of their problems when it comes to security... by several orders of magnitude. Hackers don't hate Adobe anywhere near as much as they hate Microsoft, so Windows will always be a juicier target.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca

(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)


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PDFs & Viruses: From: Anthony

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