Installing Java on a Mac? Beware the now-bundled Ask.com toolbar

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Java’s shady bundled adware is no longer a Windows exclusive, as Oracle has started sneaking the Ask.com toolbar into the Mac version.

Similar to the Windows version, Java for OS X now attempts to install the Ask toolbar during the setup process, and also tries to set Ask.com as the default browser homepage. ZDNet’s Ed Bott first reported on the adware, noting that Oracle added it to Mac installations sometime over the last month.

To avoid the adware entirely, users must hit “Cancel” when the “Install the Search App by Ask” prompt appears. This is counter-intuitive, because all other steps of the setup process require users to click “Next” to advance. In this case, clicking “Next” installs the toolbar, even when the “Set Ask.com as my browser homepage” box is unchecked.

Once installed, the Ask.com toolbar appears in the user’s browser of choice, including Safari and Chrome. As Bott points out, Ask delivers low-quality search results surrounded by barely-disguised advertisements.

While the toolbar is fairly easy to remove—the Help menu in the Chrome version leads directly to a page with uninstall instructions—many users clearly don’t bother. Bott notes that the Search & Applications division of IAC, Ask’s parent company, earned $1.6 billion in revenue last quarter.

Why this matters: While Oracle’s underhanded adware vending is old news for Windows users, Mac users may still expect to install Java without issue. That’s clearly no longer the case. Given the security threats that Java can also pose, it’s never been a better time to consider ditching the software entirely.

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