The US Department of Homeland Security has advised people to temporarily disable the Java software on their personal computers and laptops, so they can avoid being exploited by hackers. The warning came in an advisory issued late Thursday evening.
Computer security experts believe that hackers have found a flaw in Java's coding. Apparently, the flaw creates a gateway for cybercrimes and thefts of various natures.
According to an expert, the malware inside Java has targeted Windows, Linux and UNIX systems. The OS X operating system (Apple) is currently safe, but can come under threat because it is largely similar to UNIX. Java is cross-platform software, used by all operating systems to some extent.
Although the OS X is not under attack, it did not stop Apple from updating its built-in XProtect system to block the latest version of the Java 7 runtime. It now requires users to install an as-yet unreleased version of the Java software.
Users who want to continue running the latest version of Java safely can do so by changing a couple of settings. This requires going to the Java Control Panel that is installed with Java, toggling to the Security section and unchecking the option to "Enable Java content in the browser.” This will disable the browser plug-in and likely prevent theft and exploitation of sensitive data on the computer hard drive. This fix is recommended for most users. If it is essential to enable Java to view certain content on the web, then the plug-in can always be re-enabled from the Java control panel.
There is another fix to increase the security level of the Java runtime. It is also done in the same Security section of the Java Control Panel. It requires the default security level - “medium” – to be changed to “high” or “very high.” The high level of security will prompt the user for approval before running any unsigned Java code. With the very high security, all Java activity would require approval.
Java is a technical language that is extensively used. It allows computer programmers to formulate a broad variety of internet applications and other software programs. These programs can then be run on most, if not all, computer operating systems.