Should I Disable Javascript?

Q: I saw on Fox News that you should uninstall JAVASCRIPT because people can hack your computer and steal all of your information.

Javascipt and Java are two different things. Javascript is used in HTML code and is supported by all web browsers. The majority of websites on the Internet depend on Javascript for a rich browsing experience. All web-browser vendors have worked to make javascript extremely powerful, feature-rich, and secure.

Java is a programming language that is used to produce applications. Java was invented by Sun Microsystems, and is now owned and “supported” by Oracle Corporation which, frankly, bought Sun Microsystems in order to corner certain markets, is in business primarily to promote the Oracle enterprise database platform, and uses high margins on its expensive software to make money. Making money is Oracle’s main goal. Oracle has done a very substandard job of supporting free or open-source software that it “acquired” when it bought Sun Microsystems. OpenOffice (which Sun developed) failed to make progress under Oracle’s “leadership,” and the OpenOffice developers were fired by Oracle when they formed an international organization called the The Open Document Foundation (ODF). OpenOffice was more or less given to the Apache Foundation, but the ODF’s LibreOffice product–which is a highly-functional free alternative to Microsoft Office–has gained global acceptance and is very actively developed and supported.

Oracle’s inadequate oversight of the Java language and its failure to address security issues with the browser plugins that support things like “Java-based chat rooms” have indeed made it very risky to run Java “applets” in a web browser. I recommend that Java (which, on Windows, should be found in “Add and Remove Programs” or in the “Programs and Features” control-panel programs of Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7) be completely uninstalled. The vast majority of websites do not need Java in order to provide a full-featured experience, and those few websites that do use Java applets should be redesigned in favor of more secure replacements.

You can disable the Java plugin on all browsers, although with the various versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer it is not easy to find the option to do so. The simplest and most secure browser on all versions of Windows today is–in my opinion–Google Chrome. Chrome will alert you if you access a site (such as “Java-based” chatrooms) that require the Java plugin and give you the option of using the plugin just on that site. If I trust a site completely, I would allow the plugin to run. Furthermore, the “Extensions” settings of Chrome will allow you to keep the Java plugin installed but disable or enable it as needed. “Disabled” is the preferred setting.

Disabling “javascript” does not in any way protect you against the dangers of the Java browser plugin.

In some form, the Java language will live on for many purposes. Java powers spacecraft, smartphones, and kitchen appliances. Even some automobiles can be found to be running Java software. The beauty of Java–as originally envisioned by Sun Microsystems–is that it is a powerful language that can be coded and complied once, and the resulting application program can be run on a vast array of operating platforms. Whether Oracle Corporation will choose to continue owning and supporting the Java language–and do a worthy job of doing so–remains to be seen.

Tom Brown, Owner
First Computer Services