5 free PDF readers that are more secure than Adobe

Critical IT security vulnerabilities have been discovered in Abode Reader and Acrobat again. Is it time to look for an alternative PDF reader? 

The bugs were reported as zero-day vulnerabilities and are being actively exploited in attacks against Windows machines.

According Adobe’s security advisory, the flaws in the PDF reader software could allow an attack to take control of a vulnerable system. Information about specific bugs wasn’t provided, but the attacks seen have used malicious PDFs sent either via email or through a website.

Adobe has announced that it’s working on a patch. In the meantime, the company recommends protecting systems by activating the software’s “Protected View,” which is a sandboxing feature that prevents malicious PDFs from affecting the rest of a machine.

Alternative PDF readers

It wasn’t the first time Adobe software has been found to have critical bugs, and it certainly won’t be the last. Vulnerabilities in Acrobat and Reader are exploited frequently, because the software is widely used and tricking someone into opening a malicious PDF sent through an email is one of hackers’ favorite ways to spread malware.

One step many organizations and computer users have started to take to improve their IT security: ditching Adobe software for an alternate PDF reader. Since they aren’t as ubiquitous, other programs don’t get nearly as much attention from hackers.

These are a few of the most popular free PDF reader alternatives (the applications are Windows only unless noted):

  1. Foxit Reader — Free with optional upgrades, Foxit Reader is a lightweight document viewer with a number of security features and other benefits, including text-to-speech, conversion to simple text and the ability to add comments.
  2. Sumatra PDF — With its lack of bells and whistles, Sumatra PDF does one thing and does it well — It opens PDFs quickly and without hogging system resources.
  3. Nitro Reader — The biggest advantage of Nitro’s PDF reader is that the software lets users convert nearly any document to a PDF. Nitro Reader can also extract images and other elements from existing documents and save them seperately.
  4. PDF-XChange Viewer — The free version of PDF-XChange Viewer doesn’t have as many features as some of the other applications, but it’s fast and lightweight and allows for minimal document editing without adding a watermark like some other free applications do.
  5. Preview (Mac only) — Preview is Apple’s PDF reader software that’s built right into OS X, and for viewing documents and filling out forms, Mac users have little reason to use an additional program.

Do you use a PDF reader that we didn’t mention? Let us know your alternative in the comments section.

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