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Big Java security fixes on the way – but not so fast, Windows XP users

Didn't you hear? Oracle quit testing Java on XP months ago

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As if running Windows XP after Microsoft withdrew support wasn't risky enough, XP users who have Java installed may soon have even more to worry about.

Oracle is due to issue its next Critical Patch Update – the massive, quarterly fix-it fests that deliver security updates across the company's entire product line, including Java – on July 15. But when those next Java patches arrive (whatever they might be), there's no guarantee that they will even work on XP.

That's because unlike Microsoft, which spent two years hollering from the rooftops for Windows XP users to upgrade, Oracle hasn't made much of a fuss about the fact that it has already discontinued support for Java on XP.

Support for Java 7 ended on April 8, to be precise. And Java 8 – the current version – won't even install on the outdated OS.

Updates for Java 7 will keep coming – at least until April 2015, when Oracle plans to wind down support for that version. The most recent Critical Patch Update, which included fixes for Java 5 through 8, shipped on April 28, weeks after Oracle's Windows XP support had expired.

The catch is that because Oracle is no longer testing Java on XP, there may come a day when one of its security patches actually breaks Java on that platform, rather than fixing it.

At that point, Java users will be left in a similar position as they are with XP itself – unable to apply any more security patches and stuck using a platform that has well-known, exploitable vulnerabilities (because Oracle itself has made them known, in the form of published security fixes).

And that would be bad. In its 2014 annual security report, published in January, networking giant Cisco found that a dizzying 91 per cent of all web-based exploits throughout 2013 targeted Java.

So, while we know you've already been told a thousand times, we would be remiss if we didn't offer a word of friendly advice to all Windows XP users who also use Java: Upgrade to Windows Vista. Oracle plans to maintain support for that platform for the foreseeable future. ®

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