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2/26/2013
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2 More Java Zero-Day Vulnerabilities Emerge

While Oracle investigates reports that two bugs in Java 7 could allow attackers to remotely bypass the sandbox and compromise a system, security experts reiterate: If you don't need Java, turn it off.

Cue yet another Java security warning: A security researcher said he's spotted two new zero-day vulnerabilities in Java 7.

"We had yet another look into Oracle's Java SE 7 software that was released by the company on Feb. 19, 2013," said veteran Java bug hunter Adam Gowdiak, CEO and founder of Poland-based Security Explorations, in an email to the Bugtraq mailing list. "We have discovered two new security issues (numbered 54 and 55), which when combined together can be successfully used to gain a complete Java security sandbox bypass in the environment of Java SE 7 Update 15."

In other words, the most recently released version of Java has flaws that could be remotely exploited by attackers to bypass the built-in sandbox and compromise not only the Java software, but the system on which it's running.

[ For the latest in the ongoing Java security concerns, see Oracle, Apple Issue Java Security Patches. ]

Oracle has recently been issuing what seems like a never-ending stream of Java updates. On February 1, its out-of-band patch for Java fixed 50 bugs in Java 6 and 7. On February 19, meanwhile, Oracle released another emergency update -- in the form of Java 7 update 15 and Java 6 update 41 -- that fixed still more flaws, including prior bugs spotted by Gowdiak.

Both of the new bugs found by Gowdiak exist only in Java 7, he said, and both "abuse the Reflection API in a particularly interesting way," although he declined to publicly release further details. Briefly, a reflection attack tricks a challenge-response security system into revealing the answer to its own challenge, and this wouldn't be the first reflection vulnerability to have been discovered in Java.

Oracle has confirmed receiving the vulnerability details and said it's now investigating the alleged bugs. "We provided Oracle with a brief technical description of the issues found, along with a working proof of concept code that illustrates their impact," said Gowdiak. His numbering of the flaws -- "issue 54" and "issue 55" -- reflect the number of unique Java vulnerabilities his firm has discovered and reported to Oracle or Apple since April 2012. "Without going into further details, everything indicates that a ball is in Oracle's court," he said. "Again."

What's the risk from the new zero-day bugs? "The concern is that the flaws could be exploited to completely bypass Java's security sandbox and infect computers in a similar fashion to the attacks which recently troubled the likes of Facebook, Apple and Microsoft," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, in a blog post.

Those three businesses, along with Twitter, appeared to have had multiple Apple OS X systems compromised after employees browsed to a popular iOS development site. The apparent watering-hole attack approach -- to infect a target, first infect a website they regularly visit -- was sophisticated in that it targeted a never-before-seen zero-day flaw in Java. It was also targeted, since it would have affected only mobile iOS developers.

While those four businesses have publicly acknowledged being compromised, security experts suspect that many more businesses were breached by attackers, who may have been seeking sensitive source code and customer data with a resale value, or even a way to install backdoors in iOS software.

Given the discovery of the two new flaws in Java, Cluley said, "Here's the best piece of advice we can give you right now: If you don't need Java enabled in your browser, turn it off now."

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