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JavaScript can often be confused with Java due to the similar name. However, these are two different technologies.

Javascript is a browser-interpreted language that was created to access all elements of HTML and the browser. The processing is done entirely by the client-side browser which makes it very useful tool to handle processing which would have otherwise been checked server-side, thereby reducing overhead. Javascript is also used to increase user interaction, animate objects, create drop down navigation, grab data from databases, and more. JavaScript effects are much faster to download than some other front-end technologies like Flash and Java applets.

However, JavaScript code is also used to carry out attacks against the user’s browser and its extensions. These attacks usually result in the download of additional malware that takes complete control of the victim’s platform, and are, therefore, called “drive-by downloads”. Another form of malicious use of javascript is to redirect users to phishing sites or so infected sites. Unfortunately, the dynamic nature of the JavaScript language and its tight integration with the browser make it difficult to detect and block malicious JavaScript code.

Below are some links related to the malicious use of JavaScript over the years:

JavaScript-opens-doors-to-browser-based-attacks | Attack injects malicious javascript into e-commerce sites | Obfuscated javascript malware making a comeback | YouTube-Spam-Emails-Carry-Malicious-JavaScript | End of the Line for the Bredolab Botnet | Storm botnet returns part new years attacks | WikiLeaks Botnet Continues Attack On MasterCard Site | Spammers abuse free hosting sites javascript redirects

Malicious javascripts are currently one of the main vectors of infection in the Internet. So you should always make a safe browsing, protecting yourself against the automatic execution of javascripts in your browser, running them on demand (it's only a suggestion)

How could you do that? That depends on which browser you use.

Nowadays many websites use JavaScript and will not display properly if JavaScript (or Microsoft’s Active Scripting) is turned off.
So you could try browsing with JavaScript on demand or Microsoft’s Active Scripting turned off and see how it affect your browsing experience.

Some samples of JavaScripts threats: (this list is not complete, since there are thousands of variations, different names with different spreading routines and side effects).