Java bug exposes users to serious code-execution risk

Researchers disclose because Oracle won't


Researchers have discovered a flaw in the latest version of Oracle's Java runtime environment that attackers can exploit to remotely execute malicious code on end user machines.

The bug in the Java Web Start component has been confirmed exploitable on all recent versions of Windows by Tavis Ormandy, a security researcher who prefers his employer not be named. Fellow researcher Ruben Santamarta of Spain-based security firm Wintercore, said a related flaw potentially affects Linux users as well.

Both researchers stressed the ease in which attackers can exploit the bug using a website that silently passes malicious commands to various Java components that jump-start applications in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and other browsers. Ormandy said he alerted Java handlers in Oracle's recently-acquired Sun division to the threat but "they informed me they do not consider this vulnerability to be of high enough priority to break their quarterly patch cycle."

Both researchers criticized the reaction.

"The method by which Java Web Start support has been added to the JRE is not less than a deliberately embedded backdoor (I really don't think so) or a flagrant case of extreme negligence (+1)," Santamarta wrote here. "It's even more incredible that Sun didn't assess the real risk of this flaw after Tavis reported it to them."

The vulnerable Windows components uncovered by Ormandy include an ActiveX control known as Java Deployment Toolkit and a Firefox plugin known as NPAPI, which are designed to make it easy for Java developers to distribute their applications to end users. These components accept commands embedded in web pages or URLs without proper scrutiny and then pass them to another component for execution.

A hidden command-line parameter supported by Java can trigger the bug on Linux machines as well, Santamarta told The Register. He said he was in the process of testing whether the flaw can be exploited to remotely execute code.

Ormandy warned that it won't be easy for users to protect themselves from the vulnerability short of installing a patch. Merely disabling ActiveX or Firefox plugins isn't enough because the toolkit is installed separately from Java. That means the only temporary fixes are browser specific for IE and Firefox and involve setting killbits or employing file system access control list features. (More about that here).

Of course, there's another mitigation that was tweeted Friday by security researcher Alex Sotirov that's looking more and more viable.

"I uninstalled Java more than a year ago and haven't had a single problem with any website," he wrote. "Why are people still running Java in the browser?"

Good question. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022