Why Are PDF Security Bugs Becoming A Serious Problem?

The good thing about the internet today is that more and more people are aware of the dangers that can befall them when they go online. When people first started to come online in huge waves a majority of those people did not know the dangers that was waiting for them. They were used to a machine doing exactly what it was told. They did not think that a computer can have something going on behind the scenes that can take your information and send it to someone else a thousand miles away. But now in this new electronic reality, situations like that are no longer surprises. Now even the most casual user takes a little bit of what they learn and try to apply it online when they are on web sites. They know not to click on strange links, and not to open attachments without scanning them first. Of course not everyone follows these rules and there are still plenty of people who get caught up in the web of black hat hackers. But for the most part, people now will follow at the very least the basic rules of how to surf online safely.

But even though they may have the basics down, there are still plenty of threats that are out there that are a little bit more advanced than most people are used to. These are threats that may even fool the most computer savvy individual. One of the main threats like this that is going on now is the passing of malware through the PDF format. What was once a thing that would happen every once in awhile is starting to happen quite frequently. In this article I will talk about what a PDF is and the threats that you may face from one. Also I will show you a couple of ways of avoiding having a PDF file infect your computer.

the potential problems with PDFs

the potential problems with PDFs

So what is a PDF file?

When you are surfing the web, what you will mostly see is web pages. Web pages are created by the coding of HTML together with some other technologies such as JavaScript and PHP. But while a web page is very useful, sometimes it is not enough to get the job done. Sometimes you need an interactive page that looks more like a magazine and less like your traditional we page. If that is the case, then you use a technology called PDF. The letters PDF stand for Portable Document Format. It was created by Adobe for the purpose that I stated earlier in the article which was to make something on the web look more like a magazine. One of the great things about PDF’s is that they are able to be downloaded to your computer and read from a separate piece of software other than your browser. I am sure that you have run across them while web surfing, you just might not have known the name of them until now. Now that you know what a PDF files is, let’s talk about how it can infect your computer.

How can a PDF file do damage to my computer?

While it may not seem like it, a PDF file can hide many things inside of it. You are able to use a scripting language inside of a PDF file. A PDF can also redirect you to another web page. If you click on a link inside of the PDF, it will direct you to another web page just as if you were clicking inside of a page in the browser. Because of this, black hat hackers are able to place malicious code inside of the PDF file. They wait for the end user to click on the file and then the trap is set. While they may not seem dangerous, a PDF file is something that you really have to worry about.

How can you prevent this danger from infecting your computer?

While the previous scenario might seem dangerous, a PDF has just as much danger as opening up a web page. But with a PDF file you get an advantage. You are able to download the PDF file and scan it before you open it. You just have to set your browser to do that. By default, most browsers will open up a PDF file in the browser window. This is not the action that you want to take. If you come to a PDF file, you want the browser to ask you to down load it or not. When you do, you can then have your updated antivirus software scan the file for any dangers.

Bugs in PDF files are something that you really have to worry about. But if you have an updated antivirus scanner on your computer and a browser with the settings mentioned above then you should be OK.

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.


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