Is updating Java really important?

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What do you know about Java? If the answer is not much, then you are not alone. In this article I am going to explore exactly what Java is, and why it is so important that you keep it up to date.

Java or JavaScript?

Java and JavaScript are completely different things, however many people confuse them as one and the same.

JavaScript
JavaScript is a scripting language (like PHP and HTML) that is used in browsers to help render websites, and is also now used to create [relatively simple] desktop games.

We use JavaScript on our blog. One example can be found in our comment form; if you don’t tick the box to confirm you have read the comment policy and click Post Comment, a box comes up reminding you that you have to tick it to proceed – that works via JavaScript.

You can disable JavaScript, but so many websites use it nowadays, your browsing experience would be significantly affected.

Java
Java is a programming language, which is capable of doing far more than JavaScript. Java can be used to create new programs and applications that run virtually on their own, or via a browser.

Most computers come pre-loaded with Java, as do many other devices, including some cars, printers, parking machines, ATMs and more. A printer doesn’t use JavaScript, as it is a browser based language.

Malicious Java

It is possible for someone to gain access to your computer via Java. All you would need to do is visit a website with malicious Java code on it, and unknowingly to you, you could be being hacked. Some websites allow you to add your own code to their site, (like forum’s for example) so it might not even be a malicious website you are visiting, just one page which contains malicious code.

Oracle's Java logoWhen you visit a page with a malicious Java application, your browser will usually start to run the code, which will open up a direct link between your PC and the hacker – remember browsing the net is a two way process, every time you request data from a server, the server can request something back.

On face value, a page with malicious Java could look completely normal and trustworthy, as you wouldn’t be able to see the code – your browser would render it for you.

Malicious code can give a hacker almost complete access to your machine, via the internet. They could potentially browse through your files and open applications, and even receive feedback from input devices like a webcam and microphone.

Java Update

When Sun Microsystems (who are now owned by Oracle) developed Java, they didn’t plan for it to be used maliciously, and still don’t. Like with most code, hackers exploit loopholes and flaws in the language, to enable them to perform malicious activity.

Oracle's logoLike with any software, to combat malicious activity, when flaws are discovered, developers create patches and launch new versions to protect uses against their installation being misused.

Many of the know ways Java can be used to gain access to your computer are preventable, if you have the latest version installed.

It is important that you not only keep your computers version of Java up to date, but also your browser’s version. Many browsers come with a Java plugin, and this can become outdated, even if your system version of Java is up to date.

You should check to see if your browser’s extensions and plugins are up to date ideally once every week. If you have Premier IT Support, or your computer is updated by an external provider, you shouldn’t need to update Java, as that should be taken of care for you.

8 thoughts on “Is updating Java really important?

  1. Considering that Java runs on more than 850 million computers and it is cross platform, it’s somehow understandable that it will suffer from many attacks.

    In the past days there was found a day-zero vulnerability in Java 7 update 10 ( it seems that affects older versions too ) which allows the hackers to take control over the user’s PC and Oracle’s recommendation is to disable Java . What do you think about that? :)

    • Christopher Roberts

      Little in what way? I can assure you I am quite tall Ben ;-)

      May I ask what you feel is “outstanding” – I need to ensure I do that again!

  2. I have Jave installed in my computer and update it every time the notification comes up. I never use it for any programming things, but I was under the impression you need it for the browsers and some apps to work properly. But you have mentioned that browsers come with a Java plugin, so can I uninstall Java without a problem ?

  3. It’s not like the Java is super vurnerable to hackers attaks. All other applications are also vurnerable. But the problem is – that other applications are not so popular as Java – so they don’t being attacked so often. Java now is running over 3 billion of devices – and has probably the largest community of developers/programmers (and hackers also). It is the reason that there are quite much known java vurnerabilities.

    • Christopher Roberts

      The more popular something is, the more users are accessible in the event of a successful hack, therefore unethical-hackers are more likely to want to hack such software. Why did Apple OS used to be able to boast so few viruses? It was because hackers focused on Windows because it had more users, therefore more potential for hackers.

      Thanks for the comment, welcome to the blog :-)
      Christopher – Admin Team

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