ED#143 : Java Plug-In SSV Helper - Should It Stay Or Should It Go?
If you use Internet Explorer, you will probably encounter this quite often - a pop-up request to enable or disable the 'Java(tm) Plug-In SSV Helper' add-on from 'Oracle America, Inc.'. Some of you may notice that this usually pops-up after you update Java. In any case, the question is - should it stay or should it go?
First of all - don't worry. This isn't a piece of malicious software. This plug-in is part of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE), which is needed to run applications written in the Java language. Web browsers like Internet Explorer need JRE to properly display websites that use Java applets and/or codes.
Before you hit the Enable button though, do note that this SSV Helper plug-in isn't necessary to run Java apps. In fact, it does nothing useful for the average user. That's you and I and pretty much everyone else outside of a major corporation. This is because it was actually designed to help a network or server administrator with a very specific problem - switch all user accounts in the server or network from the new Java plug-in to the old plug-in for compatibility reasons.
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The History of SSV Helper
Sometime in 2010, a large company with thousands of PCs found that their old Java application just wouldn't work with the new Java plug-in. It was possible to disable the new Java plug-in in the Java Control Panel, but that would mean doing it manually for each and every PC - a really tedious process. So, they asked Oracle for a solution, and that solution was the Java Plug-In SSV Helper.
With SSV Helper enabled, all the network administrator has to do was either uncheck the "Enable the next generation Java Plug-In" checkbox in the Java Control Panel, or run :
ssvagent.exe -high -jpisetup -old
And when and if they decide to update their Java application and switch to the new Java plug-in, the network administrator just needs to check the "Enable the next generation Java Plug-In" checkbox in the Java Control Panel, or run :
ssvagent.exe -high -jpisetup -new
In both cases, the SSV Helper ensures that whatever Java setting changes the network administrator makes to his account will be propagated to all user accounts, saving him a ton of work but also preventing him from meeting that cute chick in Accounts on the 8th floor. Oh well, you can't win them all...
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As you can tell by now, Java Plug-In SSV Helper does absolutely nothing for us common folks. We are very unlikely to encounter a Java app that is so outdated that it requires us to disable the new Java plug-in. More importantly, we can just disable the new Java plug-in in the Java Control Panel, and have no need to replicate the same step in hundreds or thousands of other PCs or user accounts.
There are also some anecdotal claims that this SSV Helper can sometimes cause significant browsing delays. Even if you don't notice any difference after enabling it in the past, it actually slows down the loading time of Internet Explorer - by 2.17 seconds on our Core i5 system. It is not a necessary part of the Java Runtime Environment, and can therefore be safely disabled. Our advice is to disable it.
If you already enabled it, and want to disable it, open up Internet Explorer and click Tools -> Manage add-ons. This opens up the Manage Add-ons window. Under the Toolbars and Extensions section, scroll down and you will see two SSV Helpers. They are actually the same thing.
Click on the Disable button at the lower right corner and a pop-up window will appear. As you can see, the SSV Helper takes 2.17 seconds to load on our system.
Click the Disable button to disable SSV Helper. At the very least, your Internet Explorer will now load 2 seconds faster! :)
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SSV Helper Mysteriously Reappearing?
Some of our readers have reported that SSV Helper mysteriously reappeared after they disabled it. There are two possibilities.
You have just upgraded to Internet Explorer 10, or Internet Explorer 11. Whenever you upgrade Internet Explorer, it will re-enable the default plug-ins.
It can also happen if you reinstall Java. Re-installing Java will re-enable the SSV Helper, if you disabled it earlier.
The good news is that the new SSV Helper appears to load much faster in IE10 - just 0.03 seconds on our system. Internet Explorer 11 is even faster - 0.01 seconds. However, it is still a useless plug-in for most of us, so you should disable it anyway.
To do that click Tools -> Manage add-ons in Internet Explorer 10 / 11. This opens up the Manage Add-ons window. Under the Toolbars and Extensions section, scroll down and you will see two SSV Helpers. They are actually the same thing.
Java Plug-In SSV Helper in Internet Explorer 10
Java Plug-In SSV Helper in Internet Explorer 11
You can select both of the SSV Helpers (like in the Internet Explorer 11 example above) by pressing the Ctrl button while you click on both of them. If you do so, click the Disable all button. Otherwise, select one of the SSV Helpers and click on the Disable button at the lower right corner and a pop-up window will appear.
Click the Disable button to disable SSV Helper. That's it! You are done! :)
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For The Geeks - What The Heck Is SSV?
SSV is an acronym for Secure Static Versioning. It's a feature that prevents untrusted code from using older, unpatched versions of Java. Before it came along, a Java app could request an older version of Java to exploit it, if you have several versions of Java installed.
Obviously, that's a very big security hole. SSV prevents that by ensuring that no matter what an untrusted app requests, it will always receive the latest version. This prevents a malicious app from exploiting an old bug or security hole.
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We would like to credit Chuck Cook for finding the original bug report that resulted in SSV Helper.
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Added a section called "After Upgrading To Internet Explorer 10".
Added a section called "For The Geeks - What The Heck Is SSV?"