Oracle has issued an update to Java SE that fixes a number of critical bugs in the widely used Internet software.

Nine of the 17 bugs that the company patched on Tuesday could, in theory, be used by hackers to take control of an unpatched computer. "Due to the threat posed by a successful attack, Oracle strongly recommends that customers apply [the] fixes as soon as possible," Oracle said.

Java runs on more than 850 million PCs worldwide, according to Oracle, and that popularity has made it an attractive target for hackers. In recent years Java has joined Windows, Internet Explorer and Adobe Reader as one of the most frequently attacked programs, and security experts say Internet users run a serious risk of being hacked if they do not keep their Java up to date.

Oracle gives Apache the codebase

Java users can visit Oracle's to ensure that they have the latest version, Java 6 update 26, installed on their computers.

Oracle's next Java update is set for October 18, and according to Oracle's timetable it will update Java SE every four months after that. That's less frequently than the company patches its database and other server software. Oracle releases patches for everything except Java SE once every three months.