Is your computer infected by a virus? (AFP Photo)
Computer security firms are urging PC users to disable Java software in their browsers, saying the widely installed, free software from Oracle Corp opens machines to hacker attacks and there is no way to defend against them.
The warnings, which began emerging over the weekend from Rapid7, AlienVault and other cyber security firms, are likely to unnerve a PC community scrambling to fend off growing security threats from hackers, viruses and malware.
Researchers have identified code that attacks machines by exploiting a newly discovered flaw in the latest version of Java. Once in, a second piece of software called "Poison Ivy" is released that lets hackers gain control of the infected computer, said Jaime Blasco, a research manager with AlienVault Labs.
Several security firms advised users to immediately disable Java software -- installed in some form on the vast majority of personal computers around the world -- in their Internet browsers. Oracle says that Java sits on 97 percent of enterprise desktops.