If it seems like I am always telling you about software updates and the urgency to install them, it's because it really is important. In the arms race between hackers and software security folks, as soon as new security patches are released, it tells the hackers exactly how to break into any system that is not yet updated. So stay aware of updates for your gadgets and install them as soon as you can.
However, one recent update for the popular browser Chrome, might affect your ability to visit some favorite websites. Chrome has shut down a way that hackers targeted computers and that in turn stops certain websites from working correctly in Chrome.
This all centers around Java and its endless string of security holes. I've written for years about the dangers of having Java running in your browser, and how just visiting the wrong page could let hackers into your computer.
Apple computers have shipped with Java disabled for a while, but on the much larger PC side, it's still alive and well. Google has finally decided enough is enough and in the new Chrome 42, Java is disabled by default.
In fact, Google went ahead and disabled enter group of plug-ins that used NPAPI to connect to the browser. For a while now NPAPI hasn't been very secure and so Google is getting rid of it.
In addition to removing the code, Google is yanking any extensions that use it from the Chrome Web Store, so you don't have to worry about accidentally installing one. However, you might find an extension you use a lot suddenly missing from your browser. Check with the developer to see if a new version is available that doesn't use NPAPI.
When it comes to Java, this change in Chrome could mean that some sites you visit won't work right. If that's the case, ask yourself first if you really need to use them, or if there are better alternatives. In cases where it's essential, you can re-enable Java by typing in "chrome://flags/#enable-npapi". However, I strongly recommend loading up Firefox or another browser that can still run Java and using it just for that purpose.
However, the ability to re-enable Java in Chrome is going away in September, and I would expect Firefox to follow in Chrome's footsteps shortly in disable Java. Firefox is already working to add security features like always-on encryption, so closing security holes in add-ons isn't a bad idea.
Now that Java is on the way out, the next battles is going to be over Adobe Flash. Click here to learn if you should banish Flash from your browser.