Security Tip: Disable Java Now

Gamelan.jpgI'm skeptical about many of the "worst virus ever!!!" warnings that storm across Internet-land from time to time. But the latest advisory, about a potentially very serious vulnerability in the Java plugin for all major browsers, has gotten my attention. Mac users: keep on reading. This applies to you too.

At Slate today, Will Oremus laid out the reasons for erring on the side of caution by disabling Java from IE, Safari, Firefox, and Chrome. NPR has an update this afternoon. Here is a tech story and a Slashdot discussion.

Having (sincerely) said you should read Oremus's story, I'm now going to quote the immediate news-you-can-use part of it, where he explains how to disable Java for the main browers. 
In Firefox, select "Tools" from the main menu, then "Add-ons," then click the "Disable" button next to any Java plug-ins.
In Safari, click "Safari" in the main menu bar, then "Preferences," then select the "Security" tab and uncheck the button next to "Enable Java."
In Chrome, type or copy "Chrome://Plugins" into your browser's address bar, then click the "Disable" button below any Java plug-ins.
In Internet Explorer, follow these instructions for disabling Java in all browsers via the Control Panel. There is no way to completely disable Java specifically in IE.
Getting rid of Java means certain inconveniences, mainly sites that will no longer load. But the alternative can be more than inconvenient. (Example from another kind of hacking.)

Oh, yes, get a flu shot too.
* When you've finished that, for trip-down-memory land purposes you can read a tech column I wrote back in 1996. In it I was introduced to a new concept, called "Java," by the person who was then the chief technology officer for Sun Microsystems. A lot has changed.

** What's that picture? It's a wonderful gamelan orchestra in Yogyakarta, cultural capital of the "other" Java. It's here because it looks more interesting than the computer-Java logo. I'd send a link to an article I once wrote about Yogyakarta and its music but it doesn't seem to be online. Another time.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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