It’s been a week since warnings began circulating about Java, the software that – among other things – allows you to print coupons from most printable coupon sites. Java says everything is fine, the printable coupon sites say everything is fine, but computer experts and the U.S. government aren’t quite so confident.
Computer security experts have long warned that Java 7 is vulnerable to hacks that can expose mild-mannered computer-using couponers to malware. A new vulnerability discovered last week prompted an unusual warning from the very top – the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommended that Java users “consider disabling Java in Web browsers until adequate updates are available.”
Java released a fix for the flaw last weekend, but DHS wasn’t overly impressed. “This and previous Java vulnerabilities have been widely targeted by attackers, and new Java vulnerabilities are likely to be discovered,” it said, reiterating its recommendation that you keep Java disabled unless you need it.
And you do need it, if you want to print coupons. Coupons.com is not affected, since it uses its own proprietary software, but sites like SmartSource.com and RedPlum.com are affected, since both require Java to run their print applets. SmartSource forced users to update their version of Java, from the vulnerable Version 10 to the upgraded Version 11. It blocked devices using Version 10 and prompted them to upgrade before they could print. “SmartSource.com is a safe site and we constantly monitor our servers and networks to ensure our users are secure when they visit our site,” the company said in a statement yesterday. “Our team is committed to ensuring that printing from SmartSource.com is safe and as easy as possible.”
RedPlum.com issued a similar statement, assuring users that the problem was with Java, not them. “Rest assured, the issue in question did not relate to the printing of coupons. Printing coupons is very safe,” RedPlum assured. “To make sure all of your online activities are as safe as printing coupons with us, we recommend you download the newest Java update and that you take care to only run Java Applets from sites/providers you know and trust.”
Many who advocate disabling Java altogether say you won’t even miss it. But then they’re not couponers. Out of caution, or confusion, some couponers have gone ahead and disabled it, figuring that missing out on some printables is preferable to becoming the target of a cyberattack.
If you don’t want to take quite that drastic a step, you could conceivably enable, then disable, Java every time you want to print a coupon. But that’s cumbersome, to say the least. So there’s another option. It’s important to note that Java is a browser plugin, so disabling it doesn’t mean deleting it from your computer. You could enable it on one browser, say Google Chrome, and have it disabled on another, say Internet Explorer. If you have to have Java, some experts advise, then keep it enabled on only one browser and use a different browser when you don’t need it. In other words, in much the same way as you might have a secondary “couponing email address” or a “couponing Facebook profile”, you could have a “couponing browser” that you use only when you want to visit a printable coupon site, and use a Java-less browser for everything else.
Coupon companies are always looking for new ways to make their coupons more secure. Who knew that couponers themselves would one day have to worry about the same thing – for much different reasons?