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Google Chrome warns against all downloaded PDF files. I've also heard through various sources on the internet that PDF files are vulnerable, and hackers can potentially compromise your system if you are viewing their PDF.

In what ways can a .pdf file endanger a desktop computer?

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migrated from Nov 6 '12 at 5:31

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Of course, PDF file by itself cannot do any harm, it is only program that is trying to parse/render it can. Reason why it can do harm is because PDF file is sort of program in itself. It contains instructions necessary for PDF renderer to display document the way it was intended. Unfortunately, over time, list of allowed macros for PDF has grown a lot, and for example can contain web links and can even execute javascript.

This is very similar to why Word or Excel files can be harmful - they may contain VBA macros, which can access local files and expose local content to outside evil party, and do a lot of other bad things.

If you could use rather stupid PDF renderer which does not support advanced instructions (certainly not Adobe Acrobat Reader), then that same PDF can be considered rather safe.

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