JavaSoft counters worries about viruses carried by Java

Sun's JavaSoft division is moving to quell fears that Java applets can carry viruses capable of infiltrating user systems and networks.

Sun's JavaSoft division is moving to quell fears that Java applets can carry viruses capable of infiltrating user systems and networks.

Spurred by Australian state-owned Telstra Telecommunications' recent ban on the use of Java applets by its 1000 employees, JavaSoft executives are reassuring customers that steps have been taken to strengthen the security of Java code.

"Our security model is the strongest out there," says David Spenhoff, vice-president of product marketing for JavaSoft. Spenhoff plans to meet Telstra officials in Australia this week to explain that security breaches in the Java code that could lead to system crashes are rare.

While Spenhoff acknowledges that world-class computer technicians could feasibly program so-called rogue applets -- Java applets created to use up PC resources or to gain access to a private system -- he says that the common hacker doesn't have the know-how to do so. He adds that all software has the potential of carrying a virus.

"Just because a product comes shrink-wrapped doesn't necessarily mean it's virus-free," he says. However, companies such as Telstra feel the risk is high enough at this point to prohibit employees accessing Java applets on their internal networks, says Spenhoff.

JavaSoft engineers fixed all the bugs which could lead to such network or data security compromises, something Telstra is not aware of, according to Spenhoff. Java applets are currently contained within secure data packets called "sandboxes", which prevent them from infiltrating a network, says Spenhoff. That way, even if a programmer wrote a Java virus, the system running it would be protected, he says.

Though several university researchers have been able to find a way around the sandbox technology, Spenhoff claims those days are over now that JavaSoft has fixed the bugs.

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