When the next quarterly update to Java rolls around later this month, Oracle says it won't include support for Windows XP users. The critical patch update, scheduled for July 15, updates Java 7 and Java 8 for newer Microsoft operating systems from Vista up to Windows 8. The choice to use Java on XP is left up to users because of the potential risk involved.
"Users may still continue to use Java 7 update on Windows XP at their own risk, but support will only be provided against Microsoft Windows releases Windows Vista or later," states Java's FAQ.
Oracle states that it officially ended support for Windows XP the same day as Microsoft, on April 8. The operating system is no longer considered a supported platform for the company as it moves toward a focus on Java 8 in 2015. In April 2015, Oracle plans to end public updates Java 7. To keep up to date with Java, users will be forced to migrate to Java 8.
While there is no more support for Windows XP, users of the operating system can still try to use the updated version of Java 7. The catch is that it's uncertain if the updated versions of Java 7 will continue to work. As Oracle is no longer supporting Windows XP, nor testing it, the critical update patches may not address issues specific to the structure of the operating system. This means that the platform could stop functioning or create issues within XP.
Speaking with ZDNet, Vice President for Product Management of Java Henrik Stahl said that the company takes the same stance as Microsoft. The company recommends that users upgrade Windows, as well as staying up-to-date with the most recent Java releases. While he adds that Java 8 has compatibility issues with Windows XP, the company is looking into resolving them.
"For now, we will keep Java users on Windows XP secure by updating them to the most recent Java 7 security update on an ongoing basis," said Stahl.
To make matters worse, XP users have few options when it comes to other Java options. Java 8 won't even install on Windows XP in its current state, leaving those that refuse to upgrade to track down older upgrades that may not work properly or have security vulnerabilities through Oracle's Java archive. Other options include the open-source OpenJDK platform.
Since many exploits and attacks have been linked to Java over the years, keeping updated on the platform is essential to keeping a computer healthy. According to a report from Cisco, 91 percent of attacks in 2013 were tied to Java. In the past, the Department of Homeland Security recommended disabling Java because of the potential for attack. With users of the 14-year-old Windows XP system left to the wind with security updates, adding Java vulnerabilities to the pile makes upgrading to a new version of Windows more of a necessity than a choice.