On Thursday, Oracle released a rare out-of-cycle patch to address recently disclosed flaws in Java 7 that put Internet users around the world at risk, a move that many experts were concerned the software giant would not make, given its poor track record for developing timely security patches.
The main fix was to address CVE-2012-4681, a vulnerability that was been found to be exploited in targeted attacks over the past few weeks, and event eventually worked into the popular Black Hole Exploit Kit.
“This Security Alert contains 3 new security vulnerability fixes and 1 new security-in-depth fix for Oracle Java SE. The three vulnerabilities may be remotely exploitable without authentication,” Oracle said in advisory.
“Due to the severity of these vulnerabilities, the public disclosure of technical details and the reported exploitation of CVE-2012-4681 “in the wild,” Oracle strongly recommends that customers apply the updates provided by this Security Alert as soon as possible.”
Security researchers from FireEye discovered the Java problem late last week, and after testing confirmed that it was a zero-day flaw. Systems running Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux, with JRE 1.7 Update 0 though 6 installed for Firefox, Safari, or Internet Explorer (and Chrome on XP), are vulnerable.
While many experts felt that this issue would remain for some time, Oracle didn’t have much of a choice if they wanted to avert a major PR disaster that was already emerging, as the flaw made headlines around the world and certainly recieved more media attention than most previous security flaws, especially after it was learned that Oracle was told about the bug back in April.
Still, while a proper fix is exactly what was needed, don’t underestimate the risks posed by Java.
“This vulnerability is bad news, at least for those of us trying to avoid phishing and drive-by browsing attacks. The vulnerability is caused by a logic bug that allows an applet to grant itself full privileges. Unfortunately, this type of vulnerability isn’t new,” wrote Art Manion on the US-CERT blog.
“Vulnerabilities exploited with Java applets are a great way to bypass browser and OS security restrictions. Attackers know this, as shown by the prevalence of Java exploits in attacker toolkits.”