There are frequent updates for Java, the technology used by many web sites to make interesting things happen in your browser. You’ve probably seen the Java update bubble popping up far too often down in the lower right corner of the screen.
The updates are issued to fix security problems, problems that are being exploited by the bad guys. If you’re fooled into visiting a malicious web site, there’s a chance that your computer might load some malware through a security hole in an old version of Java, even after you’ve installed a more recent version. Here’s an article from the Washington Post about the security hole caused by these leftover versions.
That’s why it’s so frustrating that the updates do not uninstall the older versions of Java, resulting in a complete mess of Java versions on almost everyone’s computer. Take a look in Add/Remove Programs and see if you have a list that looks something like this:
That’s just dumb.
Each of those can be removed individually, which is a pain in the neck. An annoyed blogger created a script to remove all versions of Java from a computer in one operation. He sounds like a reasonable person so I ran it on my computer; it appeared to do what it promised. I can’t vouch for it – we should never run software from an unknown source – but if you run it and wind up being sold as a slave by the Russian mafia, at least you know I’ll be there too.
After running the script, you’ll have to reinstall the latest version of Java from here.
Remember, as Windows becomes more secure, the bad guys are increasingly using programs like Flash, Java and Quicktime to deliver malware to our computers. The free Secunia Online Software Inspector is a very helpful tool to identify updates that might be needed on your computer. Here’s more information about the Secunia Inspector. Upgrades are a pain but keep your computer up to date!