Windows Needs Alternative to Adobe, Security Expert Says

Dennis Faas's picture

For most of us, opening a PDF (portable document file) means we're forced to use Adobe Reader, the most prominent application associated with viewing PDF files. Unfortunately, programs like Adobe Reader are often targeted by hackers, and one security expert believes Microsoft should offer an alternative for its users.

According to Sean Sullivan, security advisor for Finland's antivirus firm F-Secure, Microsoft's competition has already beaten them to the idea. "Apple does this with its Preview [application], and Microsoft should, too," Sullivan said. (Source:

Security Expert Says: Keep it Simple, Safe

Sullivan believes Microsoft should produce a program that satisfies the basic needs of common Windows users -- specifically, opening and viewing PDF files. If they need to do more than that, there's always Adobe Reader.

"I just want to view and read PDFs. I don't want to listen to them or watch them or launch executables from them or run JavaScript," Sullivan noted. The latter options he mentioned are all features found in Adobe, but not necessarily the concern of casual PC users.

The problem is, it's those fancy Adobe Reader functions that have been exploited by hackers to infect unsuspecting users with various malware programs and viruses. Most targeted is Adobe Reader's JavaScript feature, which also happens to be an unnecessary function for most users.

Adobe Reader Exploits have Heavily Increased in Past Year

Criticism of the Adobe line of products have mounted over the past year. Last year, security firm McAfee reported that PDF exploits had virtually exploded in popularity amongst hackers, increasing by more than eight times over 2008.

Most recently, Apple has criticized Adobe and its Flash program, stating that the latter could pose a security risk to its iPad and iPhone devices. Adobe shot back that Apple is too controlling of its hardware. (Source:

Enter Sullivan, who in a recent "Dear Microsoft" blog post encouraged the Redmond-based firm to help concerned consumers out. "They should write a really simplified viewer, one that just previews PDF," Sullivan said in an interview with Computerworld.

"They don't even need to build it into the operating system. They can make it an optional download like they did the 'Save As PDF' add-in for Office."

For now, perhaps, Foxit Reader will suffice as a simplified alternative to Acrobat Reader. It's fantastically lightweight, which makes it appealing for most folks.

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