How to Protect Against a PDF Virus
Cybersecurity is a major buzzword these days, mostly because the idea taps into a common fear many of us share: letting our personal information get into the wrong hands. About half of all Americans don’t trust the government or social media sites to protect their information these days. Sometimes, it feels as if nothing about the digital world is safe from threats—and that includes the humble PDF.
First launched in the 1990s by Adobe Systems Inc., the Portable Document Format continues to be one of the reigning file types used today. The original idea behind the file type was to create an easy method of sharing simple documents, and most include simple text and graphics. This apparent simplicity lulls many users into the false belief that PDFs are safe to share.
However, modern PDF versions have advanced elements as well, from video content to annotations to form fields. These elements can be useful—but they can also make these files vulnerable to PDF viruses. Cybercriminals can then use PDFs to install malicious content and access your private information.
How can you prevent this from happening to you?
If you’ve never heard of PDF viruses—or if you want to know how to keep yourself and your data protected—we’ve got you covered. Let’s take a look at how PDF viruses can sneak past your defenses, and what to do about them.
Can PDF Files Contain Viruses?
First things first: can you get a virus from a PDF?
As mentioned above, PDFs have both static elements like text and pictures as well as dynamic elements like form fields.
Though these dynamic tools can be safe and helpful in the right hands, they also present an easy method for cybercriminals to run malicious code—i.e., a virus—on your system. In other words, the answer to “Can PDFs have viruses?” is a resounding “Yes.”
How Do PDF Viruses Spread?
Because they’re so easy to access, PDF files are one of the most common types of files used today. They’re easy to read across platforms and devices, which also makes them a popular resource for anyone wanting to share information via email or online downloads.
Unfortunately, these are also the most common ways a malicious PDF file will find its way onto your system. Many users download email attachments or online files without thinking of the potential consequences, but this can make you vulnerable to cyberattacks. Caution is the best way to avoid bringing malicious PDF files onto your system.
How Can You Tell if a PDF File Has a Virus?
Because it’s virtually impossible to stop using PDFs altogether, the best alternative is to know how to check if a PDF has a virus.
The easiest way to do this is to run a free PDF virus scanner. However, even after you scan a PDF for viruses, you’ll still want to proceed with caution, just in case: not every scanner will catch coded nuances that indicate a virus!
In general, you can also help avoid cyberattacks—both when accessing online files and browsing the internet—by using a robust antivirus software on your device. This means that if you do open a PDF file that has a virus, the software will quash the malicious code before it has a chance to do any harm to your system.
How Can You Protect Yourself From PDF Viruses?
It’s nice to know how to scan PDF files, but how can you do your due diligence to protect yourself just in case? There are a few simple ways to make sure you aren’t bringing malicious files onto your computer.
Tweak Your Settings
First, you’ll want to adjust the settings of your computer, as well as the programs associated with your PDFs:
- Disable your PDF reader’s ability to launch external applications and software
- Disable your PDF reader from your list of startup programs in Windows
- Disable macros in email attachments
You can find all of these options in the settings of your chosen PDF reader or email client, and you can find easy tutorials online by searching for the program name and the setting you want to tweak.
Add and Update Your Software
Again, an easy way to worry less about PDF viruses is to run a reputable anti-malware software on your device.
In addition, however, you’ll want to make sure you are using the latest version of your PDF reader, OS, and antivirus software. This can ensure that the software you’re using is free of bugs that might allow viruses to force their way through vulnerabilities.
Consider the Source of Your PDF
The best way to avoid PDF viruses? Stop bringing them onto your device in the first place!
Most of us are already aware that we should never open email attachments from people we don’t know, or download files from suspicious-looking websites. However, that’s not the only way malicious files make their way onto our devices.
Cyber attackers also use social engineering, or manipulation, to scam you into believing attachments are safe to open. This can happen in countless ways, from making an email look like it came from your financial institution to sending an attachment from an account that looks like a friend’s.
Make sure to brush up on common phishing scams, and think twice before you open any email attachment.
Defend Yourself From Computer Viruses
The landscape of digital viruses and cyberattacks is always shifting, and even the simple PDF isn’t safe from malware! If you plan to protect your computer from PDF viruses and beyond, you’ll need powerful tools on your side.
That’s where we come in. Adaware offers an extra layer of protection in everything you do, from opening email attachments to blocking ads. If you want to stay protected, it’s time to get a free and simple solution to defend against online threats!