Recent security problems regarding certain PDF reader programs have prompted users to ask the question: Just how safe are PDFs?
The answer, thankfully, is that when compared to many other file types, they’re actually fairly well protected. Recent cyber-attacks notwithstanding, PDFs have generally been relatively safe files to download and open. However, in the world of cyber attacks and malware, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Here are a few things that you can do to help make sure that the PDF file you just downloaded isn’t one that will compromise your computer’s security.
1. Keep your reader up to date
It can be annoying to constantly have to download updates to your various programs, and as such, many users will choose to ignore messages prompting them to do so. It makes sense. After all, the program seems to be working fine; why waste time and hard drive space updating it? Well, when it comes to PDF reader programs, the answer is that many of the updates have to do with correcting possible security flaws. Thus, keeping your reader up to date is perhaps the most important step you can take towards keeping safe while using PDFs. Be warned, however. Only trust updates from the auto update feature or from the publisher’s website. Never download updates from unknown sources.
2. Use a browser with a built in reader
Many times when surfing the internet, users will stumble upon PDF pages. Cyber criminals will sometimes use these internet PDFs to attack the specific plug-ins that allow the users to access the PDF directly from their browser. However, this danger can be avoided by using browsers with their own built-in readers, such as are used in Google Chrome. With a built-in reader, the malicious programs have nothing to attack.
3. Be vigilant
It really should go without saying that you should never open PDF files from untrusted websites, suspicious sources, or unknown senders. Even files that are sent from trusted contacts should be verified before opening. When it comes to PDF security, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. So be smart about your PDFs, and make sure that you don’t end up opening something that could really hurt your system.
PDFs are amazingly useful files. They allow you to share documents across multiple platforms and programs without having to worry about incompatibility or format loss. It is possible to combine PDF files, and to enable the use of digital signatures on them for legal purposes. However, through all of this, you need to make sure that the programs you’re relying upon aren’t the same ones that hackers are using to attack you. After all, in today’s world, cyber criminals are taking advantage of any tiny security flaws that they can find in an attempt to get at your personal and sensitive data. Don’t let them turn your PDFs against you. Be sure to be safe with your PDFs, and in return, they’ll always be safe for you.
About the author: Jared Jaureguy is an independent technology consultant. He loves all things tech and staying up-to-date on all the latest news in the technology field. You can follow him @jaredjaureguy.