Apple has issued an update for Mac OS X installations of Java that fixes at least one critical security vulnerability in the software.
If you own a Mac, take a moment today to run the Software Update application and check if there is a Java update available. Delaying this action could set your Mac up for a date with malware. In April, the Flashback Trojan infected more than 650,000 Mac systems using an exploit for a critical Java flaw.
Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 10 and Java for OS X 2012-005 are available for Java installations on OS X 10.6, OS X Lion and Mountain Lion systems, via Software Update or from Apple Downloads.
Apple stopped bundling Java by default in OS X 10.7 (Lion), but it offers instructions for downloading and installing the software framework when users access webpages that use it. The latest iteration of Java for OS X configures the Java browser plugin and Java Web Start to be deactivated if they remain unused for an extended period of time.
Update, 8:14 p.m.: It looks like I may have misread Apple’s somewhat hazy advisory, which appears to state that this update addresses CVE-2012-4681, the Java flaw that was recently spotted in increasingly widespread attacks against Java 7 installations on Windows. Upon closer inspection, it looks like this patch applies just to CVE-2012-0547. The above blog post has been changed to reflect that. In any case, Mac users should not delay in updating (or better yet, removing) Java.
If you don’t really need Java, remove it from your system. If you decide later that you do need Java, you can always reinstall the program. If you still want to keep Java, but only need it for specific Web sites, you can still dramatically reduce the risk from Java attacks just by disabling the plugin in your Web browser. In this case, I would suggest updating to the latest version and then adopting a two-browser approach. If you normally browse the Web with Firefox, for example, consider disabling the Java plugin in Firefox, and then using an alternative browser (Chrome, Safari, etc.) with Java enabled to browse only the site that requires it. For browser-specific instructions on disabling Java, click here.