by Woody Leonhard for Windows Secrets Newsletter
Why everyone should be concerned about Java
With nearly every news outlet — along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — calling for its removal from PCs, who wouldn’t worry about running Java on their computer?
Fortunately, there are steps every Windows user can take to lessen the chances of being bitten by a Java exploit.
In this article, I focus on one task — disabling Java in your Web browser(s). It’s the most effective way to protect yourself from most Java-based threats. Yes, some PC users still need Java in their browsers to work with specific websites. But most of us have little to lose and much security to gain by keeping our browsers Java-free. (And yes, Mac users should block Java, too.) Java in browsers has been a malware magnet for years — it’s unlikely that fact will change anytime soon.
I’m not going to review the most recent round of Java exploits, their patches, or new exploits built onto the backs of Java fixes. Java updates are routinely covered in the twice-monthly Patch Watch column. Brian Krebs has an interesting Krebs on Security post detailing the latest war between Java security and hackers.
Scorched earth: Remove Java from all browsers
These days, it’s common for PC users to use multiple browsers. Most versions of Windows have Internet Explorer installed, and many — if not most — PC users are running Firefox or Chrome — or both. On any PC with multiple browsers, the most effective security policy is to disable Java in all browsers; then see what, if anything, breaks. Most likely, you’ll never miss it.
Websites requiring Java are on the decline, but if you hit one, you can just move on to a different site. On the other hand, if your bank, brokerage company, or some other critical site requires Java, then you need to limit your Java exposure. (I’ve been running Java-free for about six months now, and I haven’t missed it one bit.)
This excerpt appears with permission from Windows Secrets Newsletter.