Adobe Reader is one of the most famous and easily obtainable PDF readers. With two great packages, it is accessible to a wide range of users – The free version and the premium. The free version allows you to not only view and print files, but you can also annotate them. The premium version on the other hand includes tools for editing, scanning, and digital signing. 

Features such as digital signing and file conversion are also part of the interesting features of the premium version. This PDF reader, however, hosts some vulnerabilities that may cause serious harm to your PC if exploited by hackers. Are there ways to prevent Adobe reader hacks? Find out in this article!



Is Adobe Reader Secure?

Due to the ease that comes with using Adobe reader, it has solidified itself as a favorite file reader for most people. This may have indeed been the reason hackers constantly exploit the platform to target its users. And as the webspace is welcoming more diversity and engagement, malicious operations have also been on the rise.

As a Windows 10 user, the features of Adobe Reader are even more interesting, as you can annotate your files very easily. The sad news, however, is that Windows targets are the top target for Adobe reader-related hacks. To understand Adobe malware attacks, you could open the conversation by asking – how can a PDF file infect my computer?

PDF files are doorways to many malware attacks on your PC. In many cases, simply opening up a PDF file could allow hackers to gain access to your personal or corporate network. How do hackers use Adobe reader to attack your PC? It works this way – The operation starts by creating PDF files with embedded malware payloads.   

These files can automatically download malicious codes from an attacker controlled machine and display a normal PDF file to trick you. The vulnerability CVE-2021-21017 has particularly been exploited to attack Windows and macOS users. This vulnerability has been popularly referred to by many software engineers as a buffer overflow flaw.

It should interest you to know how a buffer-overflow attack works if you care about the safety of your PC’s software. It’s an error that arises when the region of memory that stores dynamic variables are overwhelmed. When exploited by hackers, incorrect and arbitrary codes are executed on affected systems. 



Can my Windows 10 be infected by Using Adobe Reader Plugin?

For obvious reasons, many Adobe reader users may be oblivious to web-based attacks that come from using your browser. Bad actors frequently launch malware in web browsers. Reader installs a browser plug-in, so you can read PDF files in your browser instead of in a separate app. 

Malware programmers find this pattern convenient for infecting your PC with malware that is often antivirus-proof. The malware can get activated by simply loading a web page with malicious code that preys on vulnerable versions of the browser or the Adobe browser extension. 

These kind of attack also present themselves as pop-ups or updates beckoning you to install a newer version of the Adobe Reader. Clicking these malicious links or pop-ups activates the malicious code that execute through your browser and infect your system. 

Most of these malicious PDFs come with prompts like, “To open this document, update the Adobe reader.” In other cases, they are rephrased as ” To unlock this document press the button below.” Clicking on them triggers the download of the malicious file. As a user, you can also familiarize yourself with fraudulent permission requests from fake Adobe readers.

Such requests are known to demand permissions like reading contacts, SMS as well as call logs. This contradicts with a genuine Adobe reader functionality. Opening this application shows the Adobe reader installation screen. This tricks you into believing you’re downloading the Adobe reader’s updates and you inadvertently click on “install updates.”

After this, the malware conceals its icon and begins its malicious services in the background. 



What Safety Practices Should I Adopt While Using Adobe Reader?

Always update your Adobe Reader

Adobe has published in its security bulletin that there are 14 vulnerabilities in the Adobe Reader. Some of them are more harmful than others, in that they permit arbitrary code execution. This means malicious PDFs can prey on the flaws to hack your Windows software. 

Some other flaws permit access to private information like passwords. As an Adobe Reader user, you should be aware of affected programs and the necessity of avoiding them. Always checking for updates to previous Adobe Readers helps you stay in the know of recent upgrades. 

Moreover, recent versions of the software have better security patches that offer you a better user experience. You may be running an outdated Adobe version and wondering how to update Adobe Reader on your Windows. Luckily it’s quite easy. 

To do this;

  1. Open the software
  2. Click help in the upper left corner
  3. Navigate to Check for Updates or the About section
  4. Download and install the available version


Adhere to security warnings 

As an Adobe Reader user, sometimes you see a warning when you open a PDF file. The warning sometimes is asking if you trust the person who sent you the PDF. In some other cases, it may be about the credibility of the site the PDF is displayed on.

“Allow” or “Play” buttons are often displayed for you to make a decision. If you don’t know who sent the file or the authenticity of the site, ignore the allow button.

Security warnings can be displayed in cases of:

  • Blacklisted JavaScript: Adobe reader periodically updates the blacklists with known JavaScript vulnerabilities. If a PDF tries to run blacklisted JavaScript, you will get a notification message.
  • Updates on security settings: Adobe constantly distributes certificates for security purposes. They serve to ensure that digitally-signed PDFs obtained from trusted sources maintain that status.
  • Weblinks: PDF documents may contain web links. However, form fields can contain hidden JavaScript. These JavaScript can be executed in a browser or request for data on the internet without your knowledge. 

Conclusion 

Due to the vulnerabilities in Adobe reader, it has been exploited by malicious actors to execute harmful codes on users’ PCs and browsers. Circumventing this may be a daunting task, but as a user, a great need calls for that. This is especially true if you’re using Windows software, including Windows 10 which has many exploits.