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Adobe PDF insecure, experts say

01 Nov 10

Security experts say Adobe’s PDF standard, the widely used platform for exchanging and viewing large documents, should be scrapped because it is inherently unsafe.

In a straw poll taken at the Virus Bulletin 2010 conference in Vancouver, 97% of those attending said it was time to replace Adobe with a safe document format.

Adobe products are among a number of third-party software applications that are being increasingly targeted by hackers because of flaws in their design that offer loopholes to insert malicious code. Documents can then be sent via email, and if the recipient has a product like Adobe Reader installed on their computer, all they have to do is double-click on the email attachment, and their computer will download malware.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, says that while Adobe is working hard to improve its products, it is increasingly seen as "the new Microsoft”.

"Microsoft has improved dramatically on its software security and now hackers are going after Flash and PDF because they are almost as widespread as Windows, " he said.

Adobe has recently released patches for various detected flaws deemed to be "critical”. Anyone receiving unexpected emails with Adobe PDFs attached should not open them. They should also update their Adobe Products by downloading the latest versions at www.adobe.com. It is also wise to disable Adobe’s ability to run JavaScript, which is where malware tends to be hidden. For instructions on how to do this, go to the Magazine Content section of www.techday.com/start-up.

There are also free alternatives to Adobe PDF readers, at tinyurl.com/cjsb84, tinyurl.com/29muks9 and tinyurl.com/29hf9ch.

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