PolicyPak: Manage Acrobat Reader using Group Policy

800 settings in Acrobat Reader. How do you configure them? Using a weapon like PolicyPak of course. See how you can configure your entire company and make them more secure, using what’s inside this video.

Manage Acrobat Reader with Group Policy video transcript

Hi, this is Jeremy Moskowitz, Group Policy MVP and Founder of PolicyPak Software. In this discussion, we’re going to talk about how to configure and lock down Acrobat Reader using Group Policy and PolicyPak.

It’s true, you might have been able to get Acrobat Reader deployed and also a first set of configuration options available to a user. But they can just go to “Edit/Preferences” – and I promise I’m just a regular user here – they can just go to “Edit/Preferences,” and they can click on things like “JavaScript” and check or uncheck these settings.

Well, actually, this one you probably want unset, but the idea here is that you want to make sure that a user has this “Enable Acrobat JavaScript” unchecked. In fact, if they have it clicked, that’s a big problem. Because if they have it clicked and then the bad guys send them a PDF that has a problem or a virus in it, well then, it could be a big security hazard because that JavaScript is executing on this machine. I know that they’ve taken some strides around that, but it would be even safer if this thing were unchecked.

But a user can just check it if they want to, or they click on “Security” and they uncheck “Verify signatures when the document is opened.” They go to “Security (Enhanced),”and let’s – even though Adobe recommends you leave “Enhanced Security” enabled – let’s go ahead and uncheck it. Again, we’re thinking about as if we were a user here.

And “Updater,” gosh, these users are constantly being asked to update Acrobat Reader. What happens if they click on “Do not download or install updates automatically”? Well, actually, they get prompted for user account control credentials. That’s not good. That’s not going to stick, but the other ones are. For instance, if I go back to “JavaScript,” that one stuck. In “Security,” I unchecked that guy. I unchecked this other guy here. So that’s not good.

What we want to try to do is to ensure that the settings that we deliver, because it’s important to our company, is what happens in our applications. Let’s go ahead and close out Acrobat Reader here. Now we’re ready to go to use Group Policy to do this. The first thing we want to do here is let’s go to “C:Program FilesPolicyPakExtensions.” Like our other videos, the preconfigured PolicyPaks and the PolicyPaks you create will live here under the “C:Program FilesPolicyPakExtensions” folder.

On the right here, I’ve got the preconfigured Paks that I’ve downloaded from PolicyPak. Here’s Acrobat 10. There it is, the DLL file, the preconfigured Pak. We’re just going to copy that guy in there. Cool. Then that’s it. We’ve got it locked and loaded.I’ve got another GPO here locking down Thunderbird, but that’s OK. We’ll go ahead and “Create a GPO” and link it here. We’ll call this “Lock Down Acrobat X.”

Let’s go ahead and edit “Lock Down Acrobat X” here. Dive down under “PolicyPakApplicationsNewApplication” and there’s “Acrobat Reader X” right there. So let’s hit these one-by-one, the things that are important to us. That “JavaScript” guy, gosh, the default actually is to leave that checked. I think if we’re really smart, we’re going to uncheck that.

By unchecking it, it actually should gray out these other guys, but it doesn’t prevent the user from rechecking it. So we’re going to use PolicyPak super power and right click over it and “Disable corresponding control in target application.” This would not be a normal thing you could do for Acrobat Reader.

We’ll also go over to that “Security” one here. We want to make sure that “Verify signatures when the document is opened” is checked. We want to make sure that’s true. There’s also “Security (Enhanced).” We want to also make sure that’s always checked, even though before you just saw that I worked around that. Also, while I’m here, let’s go to the “Updater” tab. Right now it’s configured for the user to “Automatically install updates.” Let’s “Do not download or install updates automatically.”

So we’re force-feeding in all these settings, and we’re doing some superpowers as well. Let’s go ahead back to our user. We’ll go ahead and run GPUpdate. They could also log off and log back on to get these settings as well. They could change job roles, or they could just hang out and wait and Group Policy will do its thing every 90 minutes or so.

Let’s go ahead and see what happens here once GPUpdate is finished. Alright, so that’s almost done here. Excellent. So let’s go ahead and fire up Acrobat Reader, and see if we can remember all of our changes.

“Edit/Preferences,” let’s start off in the “JavaScript.” Here we go, JavaScript sure enough. So, like I said, I unchecked that checkbox and grayed it out so a user can’t possibly screw it up, and these other ones went along for the ride. But the point is that checkbox is not checkable by a user, which is exactly what we want.

If we go to “Security,” we’ve rechecked that checkbox. If we go to this other “Security (Enhanced)” – you know, maybe that’s super important. Again, it’s so important, let’s actually remove it from the user. I’ll show you how to do that in just a second. We’ll go to the “Updater” tab, and sure enough we’ve set it to “Do not download or install updates automatically.”

But you know what? I’ve still got that feeling about this guy, this “Enable Enhanced Security.” I really want to make sure users can’t work around that. So let me go ahead and close out Acrobat Reader again. Let’s go back to the Group Policy object here. Let’s go back to that “Security (Enhanced)” right there. Let’s right click over that guy, and we’re going to totally “Hide corresponding control in target application” – literally remove it – so a user can’t possibly screw it up. We’ll go ahead and hit “OK” there.

Now we’ll go back. We’ll run GPUpdate again. Let’s go ahead and see what happens. Again, we’re just changing that one setting. That one thing I really want to make sure users can’t possibly work around. Now that that’s done, let’s go rerun Acrobat Reader here. Go to “Edit/Preferences” here and check it out. That checkmark is now gone. I’ve completely removed it away from the user experience.

So I’ve been able to deliver the settings I want to underneath the hood. I can either gray it, or I can completely remove it from the UI. I’ve set things like the “Updater.” I’ve set things like the “JavaScript” tab so users can’t work around these settings as well. That is what PolicyPak does. If the user changes job roles, we’re going to totally put those settings back the way you expect and also remove the lockout. You can see how we do that in some of our other videos when we talk about our superpowers.

Thanks for watching. If you like what you see here with Acrobat Reader, it’s available for most applications. We’ve got a whole bunch of preconfigured Paks ready to use right now.

Thanks so much. Take care.

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