Do you think your computer is secure? If it has Java installed, then your computer is probably at risk. The general opinion is to uninstall Java. You can probably manage without it anyway as a home user. Here’s why.
What Is Java?
Java is a programming language that software developers can use to create applications and games. Users who want to launch Java-based applications and games must download and install Java’s runtime environment. Java also exists as a plugin, allowing users to run apps in their web browsers.
Do you Have Java?
Is Java installed on your computer? Visit java.com and click the Do I Have Java link to find out. If there’s no Java installation found, then it looks like you have no need for it after all. Your computer is relatively more secure without it.
Why Should You Not Have Java on Your Computer?
Java is one of the most popular programming languages for developing apps and games. Because of its immense popularity, Java is often the target of hackers and malicious code distributors. Think about it: if there are more people using a platform or software, cybercriminals have more people to victimize and better chances for illicit, monetary gains. As such, Java regularly appears in the news, along with Windows, Adobe Reader, Internet Explorer and other popular software, for having yet another security hole that’s freaking everyone out.
Just how dangerous are the security holes? Discovered security holes in Java more often than not allow hackers to compromise machines, commit corporate espionage and carry out data breaches. In 2013, an exploit could execute arbitrary code on computers running Java, allowing hackers to download and install malware without catching the attention of users. In 2015, a critical vulnerability was exploited by hackers for a similar malicious intent. It’s because of these exploits that make Java responsible for numerous cyber-attacks every year. Every time a vulnerability in Java is found, security experts usually issue advisories that recommend uninstalling Java.
To be fair, no software is completely secure. Everything from antiviruses, office suites, PDF readers and web browsers have vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to spread malware. Software developers, including the people behind Java, do their best to apply patches to existing vulnerabilities, only to later discover more vulnerabilities that remain unfixed. In fact, a Java patch in 2013 that supposedly fixed a vulnerability that appeared in the same year has turned out to be ineffective, leaving millions of Java users still open to hacking and malware attacks as of March 2016. Java can still remain risky even after a security update.
How Do You Uninstall Java?
To uninstall Java in Windows 10, click Start and select Settings. In the Settings window, go to System, select Apps & Features on the left menu, wait for the list to populate, find and select Java in the list. Click Uninstall, and confirm. To uninstall Java in older versions of Windows, you need to go to the Programs & Features of the Control Panel.
How Can You Live Without Java?
Do you need Java at all? It really depends on what you do on your computer, what websites you visit and what other programs you have installed. Here are some apps and websites that require Java to function properly:
- The office productivity suites OpenOffice and LibreOffice need Java for some functions.
- The website of the Wall Street Journal uses Java for displaying dynamic charts for stock market data and financial market summaries.
- Online gaming websites Gamesville and Pogo.com require members to install Java to play games.
- The programming text editor, jEdit, requires Java.
- The fantasy MMORPG Runescape requires Java as a browser plug-in.
- Some government and banking websites use Java to allow visitors to vote online, pay taxes, and so on.
If you happen to use any of these Java-dependent apps and websites, try looking for alternatives that do without Java. Or, ask the developers if they have another variant of their app or website that’s not based on Java.
Are There Ways to Keep Using Java and Remain Secure?
If you want to keep Java installed on your computer for one reason or another, make sure that it’s the latest version available. You can visit the Verify Java Version page to confirm. The latest version typically addresses most, if not all, known security vulnerabilities. It may also introduce new features, bug fixes and performance upgrades.
Java doesn’t automatically update itself, but it does regularly check for new versions by default. Java then sends a notification alert and reminds you to upgrade when a new version is available. You can also set Java to download the update automatically and then notify you when it’s ready for installation. Make sure you do not have older versions of Java on your system.
Instead of deciding to uninstall Java completely from your computer, consider disabling it when not in use. This saves you the hassle of downloading and installing Java again every time you have a need for it.
To disable Java, launch the Java Control Panel from the Start menu. In the Java Control Panel, go to the Security tab, uncheck Enable Java Content In The Browser, and click OK. Confirm your decision when the User Account Control dialog box appears. Restart your web browser for changes to take effect. Visit the Verify Java Version to confirm that Java is disabled.
Last but not least, never execute Java files and applications that come from untrusted sources to avoid exposing yourself to data theft and other cyber-crimes.