Oracle has issued a rare emergency patch to address two vulnerabilities in the Java plugin for web browsers that the company says are being actively exploited.
"Due to the severity of these vulnerabilities, and the reported exploitation of CVE-2013-1493 'in the wild,' Oracle strongly recommends that customers apply the updates provided by this Security Alert as soon as possible," the company announced.
The exploits were first reported on Friday by security firm FireEye, which urged all six Java users who have not yet disabled the plugin in their browsers to do so immediately.
The Java web plugin has come under repeated attack via a series of vulnerabilities that have been exposed in recent months, beginning with a flaw discovered by FireEye in August 2012.
Oracle said the flaw currently under attack was reported to it on February 1 of this year, which was too late for the database giant to include a fix in its regularly scheduled Critical Patch Update on February 19.
The next Critical Patch Update isn't scheduled to arrive until April 16, but Oracle says the fact that live exploits have been discovered prompted it to issue a fix for this flaw and another, related bug outside of its normal patch schedule.
The last time Oracle did something similar was as recent as February 4, when the company rushed out an update that addressed some 50 flaws.
Oracle said both vulnerabilities addressed by the new patch involved the 2D graphics component of Java SE, and that both could be exploited over a network without the need for a username and password.
The company says that, like other recent Java exploits, these are strictly limited to Java running inside a browser window, and that Java applications running on desktops or servers are not vulnerable.
Oracle's Eric Maurice further noted that a recent Java update has switched the software's security settings to "High," which requires users to expressly authorize any applets that are unsigned or that have been self-signed.
"As a result, unsuspecting users visiting malicious web sites will be notified before an applet is run and will gain the ability to deny the execution of the potentially malicious applet," Maurice said, and advised users to only authorize applets that they know and whose origins they trust.
Or, as mentioned earlier, they could simply get rid of that buggy plugin altogether. No less than the US Department of Homeland Security has recommended that users disable the Java plugin "unless it is absolutely necessary," while some security researchers have speculated that it might take Oracle "another two years" to plug all of the holes that currently exist in the technology.
The latest patches bring Java's version numbers up to Java 6 Update 43 and Java 7 Update 17. ®
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