How Prevalent Is PDF Malware?

PDF technology is all over the place on the internet. Some people love it and some people love to hate it but that does not change the fact that while you are surfing the internet there is going to come a point where you will actually run into it. But some people might not know what PDF technology is exactly. They will more than likely run across it but just think that it is another form of web page. They will not know that the technology is totally different than a normal web page and can cause harm to your computer in different ways. Let’s talk about this type of technology and the good and also the harm that it can do to your computer.

How Prevalent Is PDF Malware?

What is a PDF file?

A PDF file is a file that can work both in the browser and outside of it. The purpose of a PDF file is to pick up on the limitations of HTML. When the people who created HTML for the web initially thought about it, it was supposed to be for simple documents. It was not meant to be what it is now. A place where you can now see artist creating masterpieces called web design. It is overall a more visual place now than what it was first intended to be. So since it had real limitations when it came to telling a graphical story the PDF format was created.

The main purpose of the PDF file was to give web pages a look more like you would see when you open up a magazine and not something that was on the web. There would be little difference in the magazine version and the web site version of some of your favorite periodicals. This was pretty much the same reason why the flash technology was created as well. Flash was for animators as a PDF file was to magazine publishers. It filled a particular niche that was missing in the web field.

After a while, you started to see PDF files for being more than just being able to show amazing graphics on the web. They also became a tool for placing normal books on the web. Because of the small nature of the files and the availability of use on some of the more popular reading devices out there you started to see more and more books available in the PDF format. Now there are three formats that are used when you think of an ebook, mobi, epub and PDF.

The dangers in PDF

But while the PDF format is very useful, there started to be cracks shown that became very dangerous. Just like any other program on the computer, when you start to see it become more popular, you also start to see the bad guys come out of the wood work as well. Since PDF files started to be used by everyone and not just the tech elite there have been more and more vulnerabilities and exploits found in the file format. There are some security experts who just focus on making tools that will both help find the flaws in the PDF format while also at the same time help fix them as well. You cannot fix a problem until you know there is one.

The PDF file format has been found to have many holes in it. This is especially true when you are talking about the browser format of the software. This is an angle that is proving to be very dangerous when it comes to the PDF format. The fact that it is able to open up in your browser as soon as you click on the link for a PDF makes you very vulnerable. There is no chance to be able to scan the files to make sure it is safe. You have to be able to trust the web site that you are on to make sure that nothing happens. Either that or right click on the PDF file and then hit Save As. That will allow you to make sure that the PDF downloads to the hard drive of your computer first and not just open up in the browser. That way you will be able to scan the file with your antivirus software first to make sure that it is safe.

The PDF format can be a very dangerous format if you down load the wrong file. You need to make sure that you are careful in making sure that the file you are downloading is safe. Remember that PDF files are executable and the dangers of them can come back and bite you in the butt.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.


  1. Good write up Lee,, i have been warning people about PDF files for a long time.


  1. […] been overcome. And that problem is that black hat hackers have found that they could easily corrupt PDF files so that they could harm the end users computer. The PDF format is easy, for people who know what […]

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