The problem of extra software

A compelling reason for getting rid of the programs that you don’t use or need.

01/11/2013


Old joke: A man goes to the doctor and complains, “I feel good most of the time, but it hurts when I do this.” (Let your imagination fill in what “this” is.) The doctor replies, “Then don’t do that.”

Java, the software, has been in the news lately. There are cyber security problems connected with it, and it has the ability to run on a wide variety of systems, so it is a preferred port of entry for hackers. Most recently, there have been reports that if you have it on your computer and visit compromised web sites, the site can exploit Java vulnerabilities and dump malware on your computer.

IT security analyst Dan Kaplan recommends, “Java has been hard hit in recent years and represents arguably the most common attack vector, prompting a number of security experts to advise users to simply remove the software for good.”

The point of this discussion is that you may have Java and not realize it. It might be on your computer even though there are no applications that need it. You can see if you have it. Bottom line, if there is no compelling reason to have Java, you should uninstall it. Follow the doctor’s advice and don’t do that.

The same advice applies to more than Java. If you are responsible for your industrial networks, you should know all the programs on your systems, including the latest revision levels, and why you have them. The nightmare scenario is that you have an old program with assorted unpatched vulnerabilities that you don’t even know are there. A hacker finds that vulnerability and you’re in trouble.

The fewer programs on your system, the fewer you have to update and protect. Some platforms are very necessary and critical to your operation, so you have to keep a close watch on them. Get rid of all the others.

Peter Welander, pwelander@cfemedia.com



LARRY , WA, United States, 01/16/13 03:14 PM:

Ummm... cleaning unused cruft out of your computer is fine, but the writer of this piece seems unaware of the distinction between Java the programming language and Java the Plug-in, the scripting engine for Web Browsers. Eliminating 'Java' to remove plug-in vulnerabilities is a bit draconian -- you might as well eliminate all major programming languages and their run-time libraries while you are at it. Even though this will make your system safer by making much of your software unusable, it won't mean that your system is secure, given the many major packages with long histories of serious problems: Flash, PDF, Microsoft Office, Windows... Maybe some common sense is appropriate! Click your browser settings to disable Java scripting. Or better yet, use Firefox with the NoScript plugin, and deny Web sites an opportunity of running any browser scripting software without your explicit permission.
Peter , , 01/17/13 01:58 PM:

Java and JavaScript are two different things. Look at the resources in the links. The point is not to disable things you need, but to get rid of things you don't. If you have nothing that depends on Java, don't keep it on your computer. If you must have Java, at least keep it up to date. Is that not common sense?
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