MacMost Now 813: Disable Java In Your Browser

It is easy to disable Java in your web browser. Doing so may help protect you from future malware threats. Java is no longer used on most web sites and you will most likely not notice the difference once you turn Java off.

Video Transcript
Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's talk about Java in your web browser and how and why you should disable it.

So over the past year, and particularly over the past few days, I've been getting asked should I disable Java and if so how and why.

So what is Java. Well you can think of Java as an extension on your Mac. It has extra functionality. Somebody can create an App written in Java and then you can run that App on your Mac as long as you have Java installed. The same can be true inside a web browser. A Java App can be installed inside of a web page and you can see it as a small application in a rectangle on a web page as long as you have Java installed on your Mac and you have the browser set to allow Java Apps to run.

So recently people have been talking about a vulnerability in Java. So what is a vulnerability? A lot of people immediately jump to the conclusion that there is some sort of virus or trojan or other malware out there that they need to protect themselves from. But a vulnerability is just that. It is basically the possibility of a hole in the software that can be exploited. Think of it like this. If you got locked out of your house you know a way to get in. There is some sort of window that can be forced open or there is an extra key under a rock. That would be a vulnerability for your house. It doesn't mean that somebody else knows about the vulnerability, knows you have that vulnerability, and plans to exploit it and break into your house. It doesn't mean that at all. It is just the possibility that it could be.

In this case researchers have found out that there is something in Java that could be exploited but there is no exploit right now and they can patch this hole before there is some sort of malware out there that takes advantage of it.

So, there is no need to panic. But what you can do is take precautions. One of the precautions is simple to turn off Java. If Java is turned off then the hole doesn't exist because you don't have Java running. It is very easy to turn off particularly in your browser where this type of vulnerability is most likely to be exploited. Let me show you how.

Here we are in Safari and I'm going to go into Safari Preferences. Under Preferences I am going to go under the Security tab. Here you can see a bunch of different check boxes and one of them is Enable Java. I am going to simply turn that off. Now any web page I go to that has a Java app in it simply will not show the Java App. Java is turned off for my browser.

Now it is important to realize that right under it is something called Enable JavaScript. Despite the fact that they have similar names they are completely different things. Basically Java is this environment we have been talking about. It is very powerful and is used by a small fraction of one percent of all the web sites out there. So a typical user may never run into Java.

JavaScript on the other hand is a scripting language that drives almost every web page that you go to. If you turn off JavaScript the web would look very different. Many web sites would not work and others would show very simplified versions that looked like they were from the nineties.

Now if you use Firefox here is how you would turn off Java there. In there you don't go to Preferences but you go to Tools/Add-ons. Under Add-Ons you click on Plugins here on the left and then you scroll down the list, find Java Applet Plug-in and hit disable.

What about with Chrome? Well with Chrome you go to Chrome/Preferences. Preferences you click on Settings here on the left. Then you go all the way down to the bottom, Show Advanced Settings, and under that you scroll all the way down to the area Privacy/Content Settings under Privacy, and then you scroll down in there to Disable Individual Plug-ins. That brings up a whole other page and in Disable Individual Plug-ins you search in here for Java, right here, and you hit Disable.

So what are the down sides to disabling Java? Well if there is a web site that you go to that does use it then you might run into trouble. The easiest way to find out is to disable it and then go about your business and you will know sooner or later. I disabled Java more than a year ago and I have yet to run into any web page that I use and I surf all day long.

So it is probably a safe bet to turn it off especially in Safari where you can turn it on so easily. If you do run into a page occasionally that you have to turn Java on to access you can turn it on, access that page, and then turn it off again.

Now Oracle, the owner of Java, has already fixed this flaw and chances are Java at least will seem to be perfectly safe by the end of this week to use. However, Java has run into many security flaws like this over and over again so if you are not using Java it is probably best just to turn it off and then you don't have to worry about Java security alerts at all anymore.

But I should also add that Java runs outside of the web browser as well. Here it is a little bit more common. There are some applications out there,,some of you may use, that require Java there for some of the functionality. But this is a whole different level because these are apps that you've installed and apps from software vendors that you trust so you aren't really in any danger of running Java on your system like that if you need to as long as you've turned it off in your browser where you may be browsing one day and run into a web page that has a malicious piece of Java on it.

So while there are those who recommend removing Java completely from you Mac that is a more extreme step and something that I don't necessarily recommend.

So I hope you found this useful. Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 24 Responses to “MacMost Now 813: Disable Java In Your Browser”

    RobbL
    1/14/13 @ 10:07 am

    Thanks Gary, great info! I have two questions: I have to run Win XP (for business only) using Parallels on my iMac. Should I disable Java on Internet Explorer as well? If so can you tell us how? Thanks in advance.

    Robb

    RobbL
    1/14/13 @ 12:23 pm

    I spoke too soon, Gary, sorry. Here is the link for anyone who is so inclined to completely remove Java:

    http://www.java.com/en/download/help/mac_uninstall_java.xml

    John
    1/15/13 @ 7:18 pm

    Thanks Gary, that’s a great explanation regarding java. You have a real gift for explaining technical things in a way us non-tech friends can understand. I appreciate you!!

    Simon
    1/16/13 @ 10:47 am

    This can be linked with a post I asked:

    http://macmost.com/forum-install-or-not-to-install-java-updates.html

    Simon
    1/16/13 @ 10:54 am

    How can you tell which version of java is installed (out of interest) in the first place ?

    Simon
    1/17/13 @ 5:24 am

    OK thanks

    sahara
    1/17/13 @ 10:06 am

    does the update protect? Have one site I absolutely need it for…

      1/17/13 @ 10:14 am

      The update should protect, for now. You can always disable Java, then re-enable it when you want to visit that site.

    Gary Stone
    1/17/13 @ 2:55 pm

    Dear Gary, another very informative video. The way you described Java was very useful to me and made it much easier to understand. I disabled Java in Safari just like you recommended. Thanks

    David
    1/18/13 @ 2:43 am

    I’m wondering how to disable java on my iPod?

    jac mills
    1/19/13 @ 5:17 am

    Gary

    I was able to disable Java as your excellent video suggests. Thanks for that. One other questions, please: Do I need Abode on both my Macbook and pc? I have had for weeks now a window that pops up on every or most videos I try to watch on my Macbook only that says “w.ying.com wants to install something on your computer.” It takes many “delete” clicks to get rid of but it comes back. It is a big, big nuisance trying to get it off my screen. Can you help me please? Thanks.

      1/19/13 @ 8:49 am

      What do you mean by “Adobe” — that is the name of a company that makes many products (tools like Photoshop and Flash, Acrobat Reader, Flash for the browser, Shockwave, etc).
      Not sure about the “ying” issue. What makes you think it has anything to do with Adobe? Sounds like something the site you are using is trying to install — or something you have already installed. I’d have an expert take a look and assist you on that if it comes up that often.

        jac mills
        1/19/13 @ 12:30 pm

        Thanks Gary.

    Bob
    1/19/13 @ 9:21 pm

    I have the latest update of Safari, and the Java controls are under Security:
    _Enable Java
    _Enable Java Script
    Should I uncheck both, or is one of them okay?

      1/19/13 @ 9:26 pm

      No! Watch the video. Disable Java. But do NOT disable JavaScript. They are not related. If you disable JavaScript, then most major web pages would cease to work or would revert to very static, non-interactive versions.

    Bob
    1/19/13 @ 9:28 pm

    Disregard my previous inquiry. I should learn to watch the video instead of relying only on the transcript!

    Simon
    1/24/13 @ 9:52 am

    With regards to disabling Java within Opera, the only reference i can see relating to Java within Opera plugins is called “Java Applet plugin” should I disable that ?

      1/24/13 @ 10:02 am

      Probably. See what they say in the Opera forums.

    Simon
    1/24/13 @ 10:48 am

    From what I can see in order to disable Java in Opera you have to disable the Java applet plugin, so i’ll try that

Comments Closed.