It seems like forever since we've heard about a serious problem with Adobe Reader. Last year, there was a new security flaw every few weeks.
One reason for the lack of security problems lately is that Adobe introduced sandboxing when it released Adobe Reader X. Sandboxing means that any malicious PDF files stay trapped in Reader; they can't get out and affect your operating system.
Unfortunately for Adobe and you, hackers just found a way around Reader's sandbox. Even worse, they've added the information to the most popular hacker toolkit, so every hacker can use it.
If that wasn't enough, Adobe doesn't know what the problem is yet, so it can't release a fix. Yikes! This is why I issued this really important security alert.
What that means for you is that opening PDF files is about to become very risky. You'll want to follow these rules to stay safe.
1. I know you know this, but just in case you might need a reminder. Don't open unsolicited email attachments from unknown senders. If you do know the sender, check with them first to make sure they meant to send you the file.
Remember that major companies won't send you file attachments. They'll offer files for download on their site.
2. Watch whatever you download. Browsers use your default PDF reader, usually Adobe Reader, to display PDF files. A malicious PDF can still escape from the in-browser reader and attack your browser and operating system.
PDF files from secure and trusted sites, such as your monthly statement from a financial institution, are OK. Just verify that you're on the correct site before downloading.
Following these simple steps will cut down your risk dramatically, but there's more.
You don't have to use Adobe Reader for PDF files. There are free alternative readers such as SumatraPDF and Foxit Reader.
These don't have as many specialized features as Adobe Reader and often aren't affected by the same problems. Plus, they run much faster.
So, you may wonder why PDF files are still in use if they're such a big security risk. Actually, PDF files are a great way to share information.
Any computer can read them, and the formatting doesn't change from system to system like Word documents can.
That's why I use PDFs for my helpful e-guides and e-books. If you're looking to set up a new computer, get started in photography or improve your skills, understand Windows 8's new interface, and many other digital topics, I've got a e-guide or e-book for you.
Of course, these are just a few of the many helpful tools I have available to download on my site. And they're all free! Check them out.
If it's information on the digital world you're after, don't forget that my weekly national radio show airs tomorrow! From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern and 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Pacific, I'll be on live and taking your calls.