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Bachelorthesis: [PDF] Analysis of the Long-Term Archiving Portable Document Format: PDF/A



In contrast regular PDF document, there exists a more robust specification for archiving documents in the long term — the Long-Term Archiving Portable Document Format (PDF/A).
The overall idea of PDF/A is to deny all features that could prevent a document’s consistent presentation at some point of time in the future.
This prevention is enforced, inter alia by forbidding dependencies to external resources, such as fonts, and dynamically changing content, like forms or JavaScript.
Due to its restrictions, PDF/A is commonly known as the secure variant of PDF.

In this thesis, you will provide an overview on the current state of PDF/A by, inter alia, answering the following questions:

– What is PDF/A?
    – What is a PDF/A from a technical perspective?
    – What is a PDF/A from a user’s perspective?
– Which versions exist and how do they differ?
– Which applications support which PDF/A versions?

On the practical side, you will do an evaluation of the security of PDF/A signature to answer the question:

– Which PDF Signature Attacks

[4](https://pdf-insecurity.org/signature/shadow-attacks.html) work/won’t work on PDF/A?



  • We created a regular PDF document for you: [regular.pdf](https://ruhr-uni-bochum.sciebo.de/s/awo0mHp0E16Rgvb)
  • Your goal is to change this document so that `Adobe Acrobat` on Windows shows a banner on startup ([Screenshot](https://ruhr-uni-bochum.sciebo.de/s/EFFWsW1Js2ffia5)):  
        > This file claims compliance with the PDF/A standard and has been opened read-only to prevent modification.
  • Note: It is not necessary that the manipulated PDF is fully compliant to a PDF/A specification. It is sufficient if the above mentioned banner is visible.
  • You are only allowed to modify this PDF with a text editor (e.g., Notepad++). No other tools are allowed.
  • Email us your solution. In a video meeting, you will *explain how* you solved the challenge.


  • You know how to read and work with a standardization document.
  • Basics about PDF Syntax (or the willing to learn them)