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Securely installing Adobe Acrobat Reader

Adobe's Acrobat Reader gets a lot of attention from malware writers as the PDF specification allows for all sorts of fancy features including running code (JavaScript), starting external programs and embedding media, such as video files. This leaves it open to a wealth of potential for exploitation and in my experience it's a common vector for malware infection. I have found that the PDF reader alternatives don't offer a consistent and reliable enough replacement to Acrobat Reader and updating them is a manual process, which gives them an element of insecurity. Installing Acrobat Reader with a proactive set of instructions to harden it goes a long way to improve a computer's security.

Whenever I install Acrobat Reader I use a customized installer created with changes I've made using Adobe's Customization Wizard, integrate any updates and add a few other changes. This method disables, and in some cases locks-out, a lot of the features of Adobe Reader that are used for exploitation. Despite these changes I have not come across any PDF documents that are impaired or unreadable. I've installed it on many computers and have never had word from any of my customers that it prevents them from doing anything they need to. I use this installer to also set Acrobat Reader to automatically download and install updates and remove the Desktop and Start Menu icons (which I find superfluous).

This method has many advantages over manually making changes via the user interface:

I'd like to offer a complete installer but would rather not fall afoul of legal attack dogs. I can offer an installer which downloads and installs Adobe Reader automatically.

You may get an error while installing Reader or one of the updates; this is usually a result of Reader already being installed. You can continue past these errors and Reader should be ready to use after the computer has been restarted. If it doesn't work, uninstall it from the Add/Remove Programs Control Panel icon and try my isntaller again.

That's it! You should now have a more secure Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer. If this guide has helped you please contact me to let me know.

"Adobe" and "Acrobat" are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries.

8th April 2010.
Adam Piggott, Proprietor.

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