Blackboard and Java Security Risk

Software that is not fully debugged can be very frustrating indeed. I am a user of Blackboard Learning System—version CE Enterprise License (Release CE 8.0.5) []—and every time I open it I receive a ‘Java Security Warning’ that says ‘the application requires an earlier version of Java’ and asks ‘Do you want to continue?’ with an exclamation mark in a yellow warning triangle. It goes on to explain that ‘the required version of Java, 1.6.0-oem, is not the latest and may not contain the latest security updates.’ I am presented with two options: ‘Run’ or ‘Cancel.’ I choose one or other and the pop-up warning closes—why present me with two options if whatever choice I make has exactly the same outcome? If I wanted to design software specially to addle the user I would find it hard to outdo this—I am lacking in depth of creative mischieviousness. Three of the warnings appear every time, one behind the other, so I have to click ‘Run’ or ‘Cancel’ three times in succession. In my lifetime so far I have spent a good number of seconds doing this.

I am an educator with a tendency to take myself too seriously. I try to set a good example and I believe in not crying ‘wolf!’ unless there is actually a wolf. Also I try not to be too OTT, but I made a slip and did go OTT on one occasion because of these warnings. I wrote a communication such as the following:

I object very strongly indeed to having to tell my students to ignore any security warnings that appear when they are using Blackboard. Suppose there was some very serious security issue that was about to compromise security (or even, hypothetically, bring about a total crash of all computer networks around the world (which is why, I understand, certain national security personnel of certain world powers are still required to become proficient in morse code (excuse the nested parentheses!))) while a student was using Blackboard. Can you tell me what type of wording we would use to tell the students that this is a REAL, GENUINE, security notice that MUST NOT be ignored routinely, without thinking, ON THIS OCCASION?

I am a little embarrassed about that, but it was an expression of how I felt. I was politely and respectfully assured that there was no security risk. I blush.