JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Critical fix for Java security flaw released

Date

Jim Finkle

Zoom in on this story. Explore all there is to know.

Software update to address critical flaw is out, but expert says Java not safe yet.

Security flaw ... experts are advising PC users to disable Oracle's Java software.

Security flaw ... experts are advising PC users to disable Oracle's Java software.

Oracle has released a software update to address a critical flaw in its widely used Java program after the US Department of Homeland Security urged computer users to disable it in web browsers because criminal hackers are exploiting the hole to attack PCs.

The update and advisory note are available from the Oracle website. 

The US Department of Homeland Security and computer security experts said on Thursday that hackers figured out how to exploit the bug in a version of Java used with internet browsers to install malicious software on PCs. That has enabled them to commit crimes from identity theft to making an infected computer part of an ad-hoc computer network that can be used to attack websites.

Java security expert Adam Gowdiak, who has discovered several bugs in the software over the past year, said that the emergency update from Oracle leaves unfixed several critical security flaws.

"We don't dare to tell users that it's safe to enable Java again," said Gowdiak, a researcher with Poland's Security Explorations.

An Oracle spokeswoman declined to comment on Gowdiak's analysis.

Oracle said on its security blog on Sunday that its update fixed two vulnerabilities in the version of Java 7 for web browsers.

It said that it also switched Java's security settings to "high" by default, making it more difficult for suspicious programs to run on a personal computer without the knowledge of the user.

Java is a computer language that enables programmers to write software utilising just one set of codes that will run on virtually any type of computer, including ones that use Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X and Linux, an operating system widely employed by corporations. It is installed in internet browsers to access web content and also directly on PCs, server computers and other devices that use it to run a wide variety of computer programs.

Oracle said the recently discovered flaw only affected Java 7, the program's most-recent version, and Java software designed to run on browsers.

Java is so widely used that the software has become a prime target for hackers. Last year, Java surpassed Adobe Systems's Reader software as the most frequently attacked piece of software, according to security software maker Kaspersky Lab.

Java was the target of 50 per cent of all cyber attacks last year in which hackers broke into computers by exploiting software bugs, according to Kaspersky. That was followed by Adobe Reader, which was involved in 28 per cent of all incidents. Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer were involved in about 3 per cent of incidents, according to the survey.

The Department of Homeland Security said attackers could trick targets into visiting malicious websites that would infect their PCs with software capable of exploiting the bug in Java.

It said an attacker could also infect a legitimate website by uploading malicious software that would infect machines of computer users who trust that site because they have previously visited it without experiencing any problems.

They said developers of several popular tools, known as exploit kits, used by criminal hackers to attack PCs, have added software that allows hackers to exploit the newly discovered bug in Java.

Security experts have been scrutinising the safety of Java since a similar security scare in August, which prompted some of them to advise using the software only on an as-needed basis.

At the time, they advised businesses to allow their workers to use Java browser plug-ins only when prompted for permission by trusted programs such as GoToMeeting, a web-based collaboration tool from Citrix Systems.

Java suffered another setback in October when Apple began removing old versions of the software from internet browsers of Mac computers after its customers installed new versions of its OS X operating system. Apple did not provide a reason for the change and both companies declined to comment at the time.

Reuters

 

12 comments so far

  • ...butbutbutbut... what happened to all those "experts" who always claimed java was "secure by nature because it runs in its own virtual machine"?
    And who have been laughed out of any serious IT discussion for over 10 years now?
    Ah yes: they are all in hiding now. Or "moving to RoR". Or "doing Big Data". Or whatever other imbecile piece of software is the "kewl" new black".
    How much longer is IT gonna tolerate this rampaging blithering incompetence?

    Commenter
    Noons
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    January 14, 2013, 11:04AM
    • Noons: Rampaging bliterhing incompetence is the very foundation of IT. Well it is in QLD anyway.... ;)

      Commenter
      Peter
      Date and time
      January 14, 2013, 11:44AM
    • Noons, this is a bug where the sandbox (i.e. the secure environment in which applets execute) can be escaped. It's a bug, it happens, it's fixed now. Anyway, gotta get back to my new black.

      Commenter
      DrFriendless
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      January 14, 2013, 1:16PM
    • I'm glad that at least good humor prevails in IT!
      According to Slashdot, it's been known for nearly a year.
      Great that we finally have a fix.
      One year later.
      Why does that remind me of other Oracle "timeliness"?

      Commenter
      Noons
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 14, 2013, 4:13PM
    • Noons, it is the browser plugin only that was any risk.

      The JRE is local, Nothing to worry about.

      Nice rant, but you are wrong.

      Commenter
      e roy
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      January 14, 2013, 9:32PM
  • Too little, too late. I've already uninstalled it from all my PCs.

    Commenter
    Tom
    Location
    Qld
    Date and time
    January 14, 2013, 2:31PM
    • and lets not forget all the android apps written in java:

      'Android applications are written in the Java programming language. '

      source: http://developer.android.com/guide/components/fundamentals.html

      Commenter
      kim slobcom
      Location
      megafatopia
      Date and time
      January 14, 2013, 9:55PM
      • What about the other "critical" vulnerabilities privately reported to Oracle months ago that still have not been addressed (they even have CVE numbers) just because they are not being exploited on a large scale does not mean the vulnerability isn't still lurking...

        Commenter
        Jimmy
        Date and time
        January 15, 2013, 6:28AM
        • Over 80 were fixed in the latest patch.
          88!! (facepalm)
          Oh, it is *only* the browser plug-in?
          Hang on a tick: isn't that what banks use for online banking?
          It's such a secure, confidence-inspiring environment...

          Commenter
          Noons
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          January 15, 2013, 8:27AM
      • The oracle advisory for CVE 2013-0422 specifically states that only two were fixed in this release (CVE 2012-3174 & CVE 2013-0422... There are still a heck of a lot in "candidate" status that apply to Java that have not as yet been addressed... All it will take is for someone to go digging for them ;)

        Commenter
        Jimmy
        Date and time
        January 15, 2013, 8:58AM

        More comments

        Make a comment

        You are logged in as [Logout]

        All information entered below may be published.

        Error: Please enter your screen name.

        Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

        Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

        Error: Please enter your comment.

        Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

        Post to

        You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

        Thank you

        Your comment has been submitted for approval.

        Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

        This Column is advertiser content
        Advertisement

        Related Coverage

        Featured advertisers
        Advertisement