Adobe Hackrobat

 By Shamus Sep 15, 2006 3 comments

A long time ago I gave an example of how people use PDFs when they shouldn’t. Later I followed up with a bit about how Adobe Acrobat is a grotesque resource hog that makes Jabba the Hutt look like Jenny Craig. Now to complete the trilogy we have this slashdot story about various security flaws within either PDF files or Acrobat. Like so many Slashdot stories, it has these frustrating gaps in the piece so that the users can read the whole thing and still come away with enough diverging interpretations to get a really good flame war rolling. A key quote:

After reading the article I am not sure if this is an Adobe Reader problem or a PDF problem. Every example cites an Adobe product, but the “hacker” said, “I do not really consider these attacks as vulnerabilities within Adobe. It is more exploiting features supported by the product that were never designed for this.” Translation?

Ok, so is this a fundamental flaw in the design of PDFs or poor implementation on the part of Adobe? By saying “features supported by the product” it leaves open the view that PDFs are inherently flawed and Adobe just followed the spec. I doubt this, but the story isn’t clear enough.

Either way, it sucks and does little to improve my opinion of the PDF format. There are a very small slice of people who need it and use it well, and an army of imbeciles who misuse the thing on a grand scale.


3Three comments. 33% of them are the most recent.


  1. It also turns out that Mac users can remove copy protection from any PDF file. You tell OSX to “print” the file, and when the popup asks where, you tell it to print to a PDF.

    The resulting PDF contains all the information from the original PDF but without any copy protection, according to what I’ve been told. Not too shabby!

  2. By the way, Adobe didn’t follow the spec, they wrote it. PDF is a proprietary Adobe format. So there isn’t any question whether these bugs are Adobe’s fault; they are. It’s really only a question of whether it was poor design or poor implementation.

    Which does make a difference: if it’s poor implementation it can be fixed. But if it’s poor design, it’ll take a specification change.

  3. Max says:

    Well, it is actually a mixture of bad concept meats bad users. It always depends how you use pdfs(btw. in text-based pdfs hyperlinks are possible). But I give you that, a lot vector graphics on one page is just madness with adobe. Just make a jpg and copy it in: much faster.

    What I like is that they are easier readable than word formats, but that is the only thing I like about them, which isn’t much.

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