Safe PDF Download

PDF Download – What You Should Be Aware of

As we have stated many times before, PDF is a versatile format. Thus, it has garnered a wide popularity across the internet, especially for providing written information, press kits, advertisements, newsletters, magazines, and so on.

However, is it wise to blindly trust a PDF download? No, it is not. Read more to find out how your PDF download might be compromised

Secure PDF Download?

The unfortunate truth is that PDF documents can be infected with malware and/or contain viruses they spread to any system on which they are opened or interacted with. How does that look? There are several ways.

For example, PDFs can contain executable files such as an EXE or similar. They are embedded in the PDF in a way that it launches when the document is opened. This is possible because PDF documents can contain dynamic elements such as JavaScript that can be used to embed such malicious programs.

Likewise, a command can be stored inside the PDF that accesses filesystems or networks when the document is opened. Thus, without causing harm to the user’s system, the malware inside the PDF can use the user’s computer to send out malware, for example, via e-mail.

The Issue Lies Within The Software

Most modern PDF readers luckily inform their users if a PDF attempts to launch another program or send out a warning when a PDF shows any indication of malicious behavior. Thus, the key to being safe when it comes to infected PDFs is actually the program you use as your designated PDF reader, not the document itself.

Here are some steps you can take to make your PDF reader more secure:

  • Make sure the software is up-to-date.
  • Disable JavaScript support.
  • Prevent the PDF reader from launching non-PDF files.
  • Block PDF reading software from accessing your filesystem and/or network.
  • Use your internet browser to open PDFs as they might be more secure (e.g. Chrome or Safari).
  • Disable the automatic rendering of PDFs in your internet browser.

General Online Safety

A rule of thumb when sharing files online or downloading them is that you stay aware of your resources. Is the site where you download the PDF trustable? Do you know the sender of the e-mail containing the document?

Services like VirusTotal allow you to upload files or check links before opening, checking them against many different antivirus and malware detection programs.

Furthermore, make sure that your antivirus program is up-to-date. Making regular backups also highly advised, just to be prepared for the worst case.

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