Java updater dumps Ask toolbar adware, replaces it with Yahoo search

Oracle and Ask may have parted ways, but Java security updates are still seen as good marketing opportunities for search providers looking to increase market share.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

If you're still using Java, then you know that updating it is vital given the large number of vulnerabilities that plague the software. You also know that you've had to be extremely careful if you wanted to avoid installing the Ask toolbar adware that's been bundled with it for years, because Oracle -- the company behind Java -- also knows how important updates are and has been using Ask to monetize the software.

And it's not just Windows users that Oracle is eager to monetize. Earlier this year the Java updater began foisting the Ask toolbar on Mac users.

Well, the time has finally come for Oracle and Ask to part ways, but don't get too excited, because Yahoo has taken its place, which sees Java security updates as too good a marketing opportunity to pass up.

Earlier this week Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer announced a partnership with Oracle in an attempt to get more people using its search service, and cornerstone to that are the millions of Java users struggling to patch what is considered by many to be a notoriously insecure product.

Beginning next month users who install or update the Java software -- which is found on almost nine out of 10 PCs in the US -- will be prompted to make Yahoo their browser's default search engine and home page.

And the option to make those changes will be pre-checked, so if the user is in a hurry or isn't aware of what the change entails, they will find their browser settings changed. These changes aren't as intrusive as the Ask toolbar, and the more tech literate out there will have no problems reversing the change. But the fact remains that Yahoo is choosing to push its services to users who haven't explicitly requested them.

Earlier this month Microsoft security products began labeling an earlier version of the Ask toolbar as malware. However, according to Microsoft the latest Ask toolbar is compliant with the company's criteria for third party software.

If you want to disable Java's ability to install sponsor software on a system, here is a rundown of the options open to you.

Do you still need Java? While I can't be 100 percent sure, the answer is: probably not. And you can almost certainly disable it in your browser of choice.

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