Bounce Adobe Reader Malware Magnet – Three Free Alternatives


Without a doubt, Adobe Reader is one of the most hacked pieces of  software – ever. While it’s true that Adobe releases patches and updates to close security holes, they generally appear long after the vulnerabilities have been discovered, and then used to maximum advantage by cyber crooks.

On top of that, this application is the very definition of “bloatware” – slow to load, and packed with features the average user has no interest in.

If you continue to use Adobe Reader, make sure you are using the latest version. Better yet – don’t even consider this program. Instead, choose one of a number of much faster, more streamlined free application such as Foxit Reader, Cool PDF Reader, or Sumatra PDF Viewer.

Foxit Reader

Foxit Reader is a free PDF document viewer and printer. Small and fast, with a rich feature set.


Fast facts:

Incredibly small: The download size of Foxit Reader is only 2.1 M which is a fraction of Acrobat Reader’s 20 M size.

Fast: When you run Foxit Reader, it launches instantly. You are not forced to view an annoying splash window displaying company logo, author names and so on.

Annotation tool: Have you ever wanted to annotate, or comment on, a PDF document. Foxit Reader allows you to draw graphics, highlight text, type text and make notes on a PDF document and then print out or save the annotated document.

Text converter: You can convert the whole PDF document into a simple text file.

Security and privacy: Foxit Reader doesn’t connect to the Internet without your permission. Other PDF readers often connect to the Internet in the background.

System requirements: Windows 2003, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows XP, Windows 2000

Download at:

Cool PDF Reader

This viewer has many the features of Adobe Reader, but unlike Adobe Reader, Cool PDF Reader loads PDF files extremely fast. Conversion from PDF to text and graphics formats is included.


Fast facts:

View and Print PDF


Extract PDF to TXT

Support PDF files of all versions

Work with 68+ different languages

Zoom in/out and Rotate page displays

Slide show PDF document with full screen

Small in size, only 650KB

System requirements: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Server 2008, 2003, 2000. (32-bit and 64-bit support)

Download at:

Sumatra PDF Viewer

Sumatra has a minimalistic design, with its simplicity attained at the expense of extensive features. Sumatra takes up little disk space with an installed size of only 1.2MB, whereas Adobe Reader requires 335 MB of available disk space.


Fast facts:

Sumatra PDF is a slim, free, and open-source.

Portable out of the box. Doesn’t write to registry.

Sumatra has a minimalistic design – simplicity has a higher priority than a lot of features.

It’s small and starts up very fast.

Hyperlinks embedded in PDF documents are supported.

Sumatra is multilingual, with 20 community-contributed translations.

System requirements: Windows 2000/XP/Vista

Download at:

Checkout yesterday’s postUsing Adobe Reader? – Then Watch This Video Of Your Computer Being Penetrated.

Additional free PDF applications recommended by readers include:

Nuance PDF Reader

PDF-XChange Viewer

Update: Regular reader AE S. advises, that both Foxit and Sumatra, are also available as portable versions from Thanks AE.

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Other readers mentioned by readers include (check the comments and post here).


Filed under Adobe, Application Vulnerabilities, cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free PDF Software, Freeware, Software, System Security, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

10 responses to “Bounce Adobe Reader Malware Magnet – Three Free Alternatives

  1. AE Souza

    Both Foxit and Sumatra are also available as portable versions from portableapps . com within a few days of the release.

    I heartily agree that Adobe should be bounced. Unfortunately, a few organizations insist on *our* using it!

    • Thanks AE. I’ve revised the post to include this information.

      You’re quite right of course, the Enterprise seems unable to come to grips with the inherent weakness in Adobe Reader. I’m just now reviewing the 2010 Deloitte-NASCIO Cybersecurity Survey, which is under embargo until Monday (consequently, I can’t discuss the contents), but it’s fair to say, that a sea change in perception vis a vis third part application security issues, is underway. Not a moment too soon, it seems to me.


  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    All of this is so true. My banking website even has a link to download Adobe to read online statements, with no links to any alternatives. Not me though. I’ve been using Foxit Reader for ages now, knowing what I know about Adobe.


    • Hey Mal,

      I’m not at all surprised to hear this. I keep referring to an article I’ll be posting on Monday, dealing in part with application vulnerabilities – only because it’s pertinent to this conversation. Part of that article deals with some newly released statistics which show that Banks fail miserably at securing both their own systems, and their customers systems. Offering Adobe Reader as a download, knowing what we know, creates a risk for customers that many would choose not to accept, if they were more educated, in my view.

      Foxit Reader as you point out, is a more than acceptable alternative, to Adobe Reader.



  3. Jose

    Hi Bill.
    Correct me if I’m wrong: If we keep Adobe Reader up to date we are safe, aren’t we?
    In fact that’s what I’ve been doing for years now. And with Flash and with.. yes, Windows.

    P.S. I understand the attraction of third party apps like OpenOffice (wich I use, instead of Microsoft Office).
    But, please, lets keep things in perspective.

    • Hi Jose,

      Yesterday’s article made it clear, that a vulnerability exists in Adobe Reader that will not be patched until October 4. So, despite running the latest version, this vulnerability still exists – making the application fundamentally unsafe. This is a continuing problem with Adobe Reader. This application is notorious for the large number of zero day vulnerabilities that remain unpatched for weeks, and sometimes months. That was the whole point of yesterday’s article. Simply put – Adobe Reader is the most hacked piece of software, ever.

      I’m not sure what you are referring to re: third party apps. Just so that we’re on the same page here – third party applications are those applications not written by Microsoft, Apple, and other system developers, but are designed to work on these respective operating systems.

      If however, you’re making the point that third party applications are relatively secure, then you are on shaky ground. More than half of all software applications failed to meet an acceptable level of security, according to a study based on real-world code audits by application security firm Veracode.

      On Monday, I will be posting an article describing the new level of concern within both government, and major enterprises, with respect to third party application vulnerabilities. There is definite cause for concern.


      • Jose

        “I’m not sure what you are referring to re: third party apps. Just so that we’re on the same page here – third party applications are those applications not written by Microsoft, Apple, and other system developers, but are designed to work on these respective operating systems. ”

        Yes that’s what I mean by “third party” apps; but i realise that they can be as insecure as “official” ones. That was my point.
        Some posters on tech forums insist that ife we change mainstream apps for less known ones we would be safer; that’s what I disagree on. It depends much more on the user than on the program.

        I’m waiting on your Monday article.

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