General Question

LostInParadise's avatar

Can a pdf file really damage my computer?

Asked by LostInParadise (17927 points ) December 22nd, 2013

Why are we told that the file might damage our computer when you download a pdf file? The message does not appear for Word documents.

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9 Answers

XOIIO's avatar

If it really is a .pdf and not some executable that just has .pdf in the name to trick people, no.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Yes. There are a number of known vulnerabilities in adobe reader that malware can take advantage of. This is why adobe keeps releasing security updates to patch them. Word files can also host malware and but it’s not as common as it used to be.

BosM's avatar

Ransomware/Malware such as Cryptolocker is disguised to look like a .PDF file. Once launched it executes encryption that locks your files. The encryption key then needs to be purchased from the Ransomware owner in order for you to get access to your files. Don’t open attachments that look suspicious or are from people you don’t know or trust.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CryptoLocker

LostInParadise's avatar

@Lightlyseared , So that’s why they have all those updates. It makes sense now.

jerv's avatar

Foxit Reader is a bit more secure, as it has different holes (and probably fewer of them). It’s not totally immune, but a bit more secure.

Word documents can, mostly through the use of macros, but as @Lightlyseared points out, that is less common than it used to be back in the day. In fact, pretty much any file can, but the most common in my experience are archives (ZIP, RAR, 7z….).

El_Cadejo's avatar

@BosM Ahhhh ransomware. Nothin like turning on your computer one day to see “YOU HAVE BEEN CAUGHT LOOKING AT CHILD PORNOGRAPHY!!! PLEASE SEND (LARGE SUM OF MONEY) TO FBI AT (RANDOM ADDRESS) SO THAT CHARGES AREN’T FILED.”

DWW25921's avatar

Sometimes PDF files have naughty bits attached to them.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Cryptolocker is actually very easy to deal with if you keep your files backed up. So there’s another reason to back stuff up.

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