Saturday, February 13, 2010

Do not use Okular to fill out PDF forms!

Do not use Okular to fill out any PDF forms with sensitive information (like your taxes)!

Okular has a seriously mis-designed feature turns into a huge security hole for your personal information.

A little background:

Okular is the default PDF file viewer for KDE. It seems to work pretty well for viewing most PDF files, and, on your first look, it appears to handle PDF forms as well. You can fill out a form, close Okular, reopen the form, and your data comes back. You may or may not notice the oddity that it doesn't have a "Save" menu option...

But then you open the form you filled out with Adobe Acrobat, and your form data is NOT there.

Well, where the heck is it?

It turns out that Okular has a horribly conceived "feature" to let you store form data - but it puts the form data in a file other than the PDF document - it puts it under ~user/.kde/share/apps/okular/docdata/randomFileName.pdf.xml.

Not only is this a stupidly implemented feature - since it makes it impossible to fill out a PDF form and send it to someone else - it is a huge security hole for those of us that do things like fill out tax forms.

When I fill out my tax form PDFs - I keep the PDFs inside of a Truecrypt volume. I fully expect that my data is going to be saved within the PDF. Every other sane document editor works that way. So when close the truecrypt volume, I know that my data is secure.

Imagine my surprise, to find all of my tax data floating out in user/.kde/share/apps/okular/docdata/randomFileName.pdf.xml

This misfeature should really be removed from Okular ASAP.

I've made the okular developers mailing list aware of this issue (lets see what they do) and have also filed a bug with Ubuntu (my distro)

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