Java Security Issue and Blackboard

java-evilI’m not a Java programmer, although I did sleep at a Holiday Inn express last night!

The world is all a-twitter (and literally on Twitter) about a HUGE security flaw in Java. The Department of Homeland Security made it a major alert (the world needs more lerts) and everyone was/is in full panic mode.

The otherwise-staid NPR folk came out with a “Java Security Flaw is Repaired; Experts Still Recommend Disabling It” article that is more than slightly cautious. It’s a very readable discussion and I recommend it!

If you are using a Java 7 flavor, you should upgrade to the latest version at Java.com, is their message. If you are still using Java 6, which we are on campus, it has its own and different security issues. Isn’t it lovely?

An important piece from the NPR article:

Java vs. Javascript: The Java 7 security flaw does not affect JavaScript. While they’re both programming languages, they’re not as closely related as their names imply.

Java, developed by Sun Microsystems, is far more complex and independent — and thus poses more risk if hackers find a way to misuse it. By contrast, JavaScript, developed by Netscape, is used mostly within HTML to make web pages more interactive.

So. You need Javascript, it’s embedded in the browsers and you cannot do anything about and it is totally different from Java. Why they were named the same is a good question.

Do you need Java?

Parts of Blackboard require Java (this is from an email on the BLKBRD-L listserve):

If I am not mistaken, the only Blackboard Learn features and tools that require Java and that will not work without it are:

  • the new drag-and-drop multiple files feature (part of SP 10 — we’re not there yet!)
  • the visual (rich-text) text box editor (the Plain-text editor works fine, however)
  • Blackboard Collaborate (formerly known as Elluminate) Web conferencing will not work without Java on desktop browsers (although attending Web conference’s using the new mobile apps for iPads, iPhones (and Android any day now) will work fine)
  • Blackboard Instant Messenger requires Java and does not work (which Genesee does not have!)
  • all the Blackboard Collaborate Voice Tools require Java and will not work: Voice discussion boards, Voice Podcasts, Voice Emails, Voice Presentations and Voice Direct
  • the old Blackboard Collaboration tools: Virtual Classroom (aka Lecture Hall) and Chat (Office Hours) use Java and will not work. These tools are awful and should never be used, in my opinion.  (Amen to that!)

 If you’re at Java 6, stay there. If you’re using Java 7, upgrade to the newest and shiniest release!

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