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Is it time to give up on Java?

Is it time to give up on Java?

Q. I saw on your Breaking Tech News page that Java got another new update that's supposed to make it safe. Is that really true? It seems like it changes every week! I'm really worried, because a few of the sites I like to use require me to run Java. Please clear this up for me, Kim.
-Stacy, from Baltimore, MD, listens to my national radio show on WBAL 1090 AM

A. It's like déjà vu all over again, Stacy! Just when the scary Java headlines had died down, Java came out of nowhere with an update that fixed almost 50 security issues. Of course, a few hours later hackers were bragging about finding a hole in Java that the update missed. So, it's off to the races once more.

For those who haven't been following this, Java is a programming language required for certain programs and websites. It runs many chat sites, online games and programs like LibreOffice.

Hackers have spent the last few months finding security flaws in Java that can help them take over your computer and steal your information.

It seems like every time Oracle, the company that develops Java, patches a security flaw, hackers find another one. That's bad news since Java comes on most computers by default.

Now that hackers have found another new crack in Java, what should you do?

The best thing to do, as always, is uninstall Java completely. This avoids all the security problems. For help deleting Java or any other program you don't want, check out this must-read tip.

Unfortunately, as I said above, some programs and websites require Java to work. If you use one of those, then uninstalling Java isn't an option.

Fortunately, that isn't the end of your security options.

First I should explain that there are two ways Java can run. It can run with standalone programs on your system, or it can run as a plug-in in your Web browser.

The standalone version really isn't dangerous. It doesn't communicate with the Internet so hackers have a much harder time taking control of it. That means using a program like LibreOffice isn't really a security threat.

The real danger is the Java browser plug-in. All you have to do is visit a malicious site with it enabled and hackers can use it to invade your system. Thankfully, you can turn it off.

To start, make sure you have the most-recent version of Java. Once you've installed it, go to Start>>Computer and type "Javacpl.exe" in your search bar. When it shows up, double-click on it to run it.

On some computers "Javacpl.exe" won't show up, so you'll have to look for it manually. Go to Start>>Computer>>Local Disk (C:). If you have a 64-bit computer, go to Program Files (x86)>>Java>>jre7>>bin. On 32-bit computers, you'll find it in Program Files>>Java>>jre7>>bin.

Double-click Javacpl.exe and find the Security tab. Uncheck the box that says "Enable Java content in the browser." Restart any browsers you have open for the change to take effect.

If you're on a Mac with OS X 10.7 or later, Java is already turned off in your browser. If you want to double check, you can find the Java Control Panel on your Mac by going to System Preferences and clicking on the Java icon. It looks like a piping-hot cup of coffee.

Stacy, since you said you need Java to make some sites work, you'll have to leave the Java plug-in enabled. There is a way to do this without hurting your security.

Go back to the Java Privacy menu and set the security slider to "Custom level." Then select "Prompt User," "Single-click confirmation prompt" and "Prompt user" in the menu that pops up.

Now all sites that use Java will ask for permission before running it. Only give permission to sites you trust! On all other sites, tell Java not to run.

If you still aren't comfortable having Java installed, you can try finding some alternatives to the sites and programs that require it. Take a look through my Cool Sites and Free Downloads sections.

Your computer isn't completely safe just yet, though. Use these three ideas to boost your computer's security even more.

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