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updated 4/18/2013 5:46:13 PM ET 2013-04-18T21:46:13

Apple has released a Java patch for its aging Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard operating system. The release comes on the heels of the sweeping Java software security update released by owner Oracle Corp. earlier this week.

The move is perhaps surprising, considering Apple usually doesn't expend much time supporting its older operating systems. Snow Leopard was first released in 2009, and has since been followed up with OS X 10.7 Lion in 2011 and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion in 2012.

Despite Apple's efforts to get people to upgrade to the most recent OS, more than one-quarter of Apple desktops still use Snow Leopard. Because use of Java 7 requires Lion OS X or higher, a significant portion of Apple's user base is stuck with Java 6. (Oracle handles Java 7 updates for Macs; Apple also pushed out this week's update to Lion and Mountain Lion users who still have Java 6.)

Java is almost as ubiquitous as it is vulnerable to hacks and bugs. Oracle originally intended to phase out support for Java 6 in February but reversed its decision following a series of gaping security breaches that forced the company to release emergency "out-of-band" updates. As of right now, it looks like Oracle will continue to support the 7-year-old Java 6 for the near future.

Apple’s Java patch is a welcome update for many people.

[See also: Should You Disable Java on Your Computer? ]

The patch fixes up to 42 security-related bugs that could occur when users access Java-based websites and apps from a Mac.

In addition to the Java patch, Apple added a browser security tool to Safari 5 for Snow Leopard, and to Safari 6 for Lion and Mountain Lion. The tool lets users designate Java browser permissions on a site-by-site basis.

Several of the bugs fixed in this update were uncovered last month at the Pwn2Own hacking contest, where computer experts competed to find security flaws in Java as well as in several browsers and other popular computing services.

You can download the patch by clicking Software Update under your machine’s Preferences tab, or by going to Apple's Support Downloads website. There's no word yet on whether Apple will release future patches.

Oracle's next Java update is scheduled for June 18, which means the patches for Lion and Mountain Lion should come out around the same time. For how much longer Apple will continue to support Snow Leopard, however, remains to be seen.

Follow Jillian Scharr@JillScharr. Follow us@TechNewsDaily, onFacebookor on Google+.

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