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Important Notes About Java & Security

  • What is Java?
    Java is a programming language and a special system that allows software to work on any computer that supports it. For example, a programmer can write one Java application, and it can run on a Mac and Windows computer. Without Java, a programmer would have to write the application twice, one for Mac and one for Windows. For a computer to run an application that is written in Java, the Java software (interpreter) must be installed on that computer. Java is not widely used in the consumer software market, but you may have an application that requires it. Most people are probably heard of Java because web sites can download and run Java software (called Java applets) through your web browser (i.e., Firefox, Chrome, Safari). They do that to provide functionality that is not available in a standard web browser. It's important to know that when the web browser downloads and runs a Java Applet from a web site, you are allowing software to run on your computer that might do something harmful if the web site is run by an untrusted entity. Over time, hackers have found many ways to circumvent Java security, and when the problems are fixed, they find new vulnerabilities. The internet community has recognized Java as a significant threat to the security of your computer.
  • When Java is installed on your computer, the web browsers will try to use it if any web site tries to run a Java applet. That’s a security risk, so you want to set all browsers to not run Java applets.
  • Most web sites will work fine without Java, but if a web site needs it, and you must use that web site, you can always make an exception to allow Java for a specific site. Just be very cautious about allowing web sites to use Java. Only enable it for trusted sites.
  • Each browser has its own settings. Disabling Java in one browser, such as Firefox, does NOT disable it in other browsers, such as Chrome or Safari.
  • Javascript and Java have similar names, but they are unrelated. Javascript is built into every web browser. You should not typically turn Javascript off, because most web sites won’t work well without it. Java is installed on your computer, and any web browser on that computer may utilize it when necessary. However, Java can be a security risk, and needs to be managed in all your browsers (or any other software that might try to download and run a Java applet from the internet).
  • Apple Computer pre-installed Java on MacOS 10.6.8 and earlier. Because of constant security issues, Java is NOT pre-installed starting with MacOS 10.7 and later, so you must specifically download Java if you need it. Most computer users will never need it. Don't install it if you don't need it.

Last updated: 02/09/2017