Java has had a lot of press lately. So what is going on?

Java has been around since nearly the beginning of the internet. It is a powerful platform and most users know of it as a plugin for their web browsers. It is a lot more than just a plugin, but we are only going to discuss it as a plugin for your web browser?

By default, your web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Chrome, etc.) does support several types of media available on the internet. Flash content often requires Flash Player from Adobe. Java code requires a Java plugin from Oracle. When your browser encounters code that needs a plugin to be interpreted, that plugin comes alive and starts doing its job. The problem is that the browser can no longer filter the content that is interpreted by the plugin since it doesn’t understand the code natively. What this means is that your web browser can be secure but a plugin can allow malicious code to run.

The good news is that most of us don’t need Java. The plugin can simply be uninstalled. If you can’t remember the last time a Java applet ran while you were browsing the web, then simply go to the Control Panel and uninstall Java. On a Mac, Java is not installed until the first time you need it, and even then you can disable it in Safari by going to Preferences, Security Tab, and uncheck “Enable Java”.

So what if you actually need Java? The first thing to do is uninstall any leftover Java version 6 installations. Java 7 is current and even though there are security releases of Java 6, it is going to be abandoned at some point. Next, make sure that your Java 7 is up-to-date. You’ll get notices very frequently if it is not up to date. If you are having trouble installing the updates, uninstall it completely and reinstall the latest version from scratch. On the Mac, Apple provides updates to Java so just make sure to install the software updates.

That’s it! If you don’t need Java, uninstall it. If you need it, make sure that it is fully up-to-date.