Security Tip: Disable Java Now

By James Fallows

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.
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* 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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/01/security-tip-disable-java-now/267171/