What is Protected Mode?

Protected Mode continues to be Adobe's primary defense-in-depth security strategy for mitigating and preventing security vulnerabilities. Protected Mode protects you by limiting what malicious files can do and access. Protected Mode is enabled by default in Acrobat Reader, and is designed to run transparently in the background while protecting your hardware and data.

More information

This document lists what Protected Mode does not support as well as changes across releases. To learn more about sandboxing and protected mode, see the following:

Antivirus software conflicts

By default, Acrobat Reader runs in Protected Mode. In certain situations Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader experiences compatibility issues with anti-virus software when that software intercepts some system calls for the Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader sandbox. In these cases, Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader could fail to open, crash, or displays an incompatible-configuration dialog.

For example, Protected Mode is known to be incompatible with:

  • Trend Micro antivirus version 15 or earlier. Adobe recommends you update to the Trend Micro version 16 or higher. For more information, see Can’t verify your subscription status | Acrobat, Trend Micro Antivirus.
  • Palo Alto’s Traps version 5 or lower causes Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader to crash when the Protected Mode is enabled. Adobe recommends you update to the latest version of traps.
  • Some Symantec Endpoint Protection configurations. Adobe recommends that users update to Symantec Endpoint Protection 11.0 RU6 MP2 or higher.
  • McAfee VirusScan Enterprise for certain actions in Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. Known actions include the following:
    • Launching of some IME tools. As a workaround, disable the Buffer Overflow Protection in McAfee antivirus.

Adobe is working with anti-virus companies to resolve these problems.

P11 smart card workaround

The installation of some smart cards doesn't work for Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader users when in Protected Mode. Because Protected Mode sandboxes certain processes that make system calls, smart card installation can fail or result in the "unsupported configuration" dialog appearing. However, a simple workaround is available. Install the smart card software with Protected Mode turned off as follows: 

  1. Disable Protected Mode by going to Edit > Preferences > Security (Enhanced) and deselecting Enable Protected Mode at startup.

  2. Restart Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. 

  3. Install the smart card software according to the provider's instructions. 
  4. Enable Protected Mode. 

  5. Restart Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader.