Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

1/28/2013
06:10 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Java Security Feature FAIL: Researcher Bypasses Java Sandbox, Security Settings

'High' and 'Very High' Java security settings won't stop attacks, researcher says

Zero-day bugs in Java have been coming fast and furious lately. In the latest twist, a researcher says he was able to cheat built-in security features in Java applications.

Adam Gowdiak, founder and CEO of Security Explorations in Poland, has alerted Oracle that he and his team found security holes that could allow an attacker to both escape Java's sandboxing protection and cheat the highest security settings in the application.

His discovery of new flaws in the software -- which could allow an attacker to bypass Java's security features in the "High" and "Very High" security settings -- basically shot down Oracle's recent recommendations to use those settings to avert a zero-day attack that began earlier this month.

Oracle issued a security update for the CVE-2013-0422 vulnerability that included a change in Java's Security Level setting from "Medium" to "High" so users would be prompted before allowing an unsigned Java applet to run.

But the newest Java bug can be exploited to cheat those security settings altogether. "Regardless of the new security level configured by the user ... the new bug could be used to execute untrusted Java applications" on the machine, Gowdiak says. Only users with Java plug-ins enabled in their browsers are at risk, he says.

[Most enterprises might be stuck with Java, but there are ways to reduce the effectiveness of recent and future zero-day exploits. See Tech Insight: 5 Approaches To Decaffeinating Java Exploits.]

The researcher won't publicly reveal details on the specific vulnerabilities he discovered, but he says the only way to protect systems from these and other Java-borne attacks is to disable the application or employ the "click-to-play" feature found in some browsers that lets you pick and choose where you can run Java as needed.

"At the moment, disabling Java or relying on the so called 'click-to-play' feature implemented by several Web browsers seems to be the only solution that could help mitigate Java-based attacks," Gowdiak told Dark Reading.

He revealed earlier this month that he could bypass the sandbox security feature in Java that runs untrusted code in isolation in the newest version of the software, Java 7 Update 11 and Java Runtime Environment Version 1.7.0_11-b21. He found two new bugs and provided Oracle proof-of-concept code on how they could be abused to escape the sandbox.

"It was only a matter of time before another sandbox escape was identified in the Java Runtime. Although there is no doubt that 7u11 patch was incomplete, we have to keep in mind that it was released under duress and did help with the immediate problem of consumers being compromised," says HD Moore, CTO at Rapid7 and creator of Metasploit.

While the obvious targets are the Java plug-ins used in Web browsers, any Java application that uses the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) could suffer the sandbox bypass attack. "We have demonstrated the vulnerability in the context of Java Plugin and the so-called Java Applet application run in the Web browser," Gowdiak says. "However, any Java app relying on the vulnerable Java Runtime Environment might be vulnerable to it as long as the attacker finds its way to run its code inside a vulnerable Java environment."

An attacker could run malware in the Java environment and gain remote control of the user's Java Web application, he says.

Rapid7's Moore says it seems Oracle's efforts to shore up security didn't end up helping much. "It sounds like they put a lot of effort into all-new" security settings, but it really didn't make much difference security-wise, he says. "The only folks making a difference here are the browser [vendors]. They are detecting actual [Java] attacks in the wild," Moore says.

George Tubin, a security strategist at Trusteer, says Java exploits will continue to be a problem. And short-term fixes aren't the answer.

"We have to get away from this back-and-forth reactive game. The way software is, you're going to find vulnerabilities, and you're not going to find a way to eliminate them, even when vulns are patched," Tubin says.

Oracle was not available for comment at the time of this posting.

So can Oracle rebound with a more secure Java? Gowdiak says the wave of vulnerabilities and other security issues with Java revealed during the past few months demonstrate problems with Oracle's security processes. He says multiple bugs were "introduced" into Java 7, and its patch-testing process appears to be flawed.

"The company's analysis of security issues as well as its patch-testing processes are not thorough enough: There are cases of bugs being found in the same code as previously patched issues or bugs that are not fixed properly," he says. "The number of bugs discovered in new features introduced into Java 7 indicate that these features were not [likely] subject to any security review."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Mobile Banking Malware Up 50% in First Half of 2019
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/17/2020
Active Directory Needs an Update: Here's Why
Raz Rafaeli, CEO and Co-Founder at Secret Double Octopus,  1/16/2020
New Attack Campaigns Suggest Emotet Threat Is Far From Over
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  1/16/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-20399
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-23
A timing vulnerability in the Scalar::check_overflow function in Parity libsecp256k1-rs before 0.3.1 potentially allows an attacker to leak information via a side-channel attack.
CVE-2020-7915
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
An issue was discovered on Eaton 5P 850 devices. The Ubicacion SAI field allows XSS attacks by an administrator.
CVE-2019-20391
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
An invalid memory access flaw is present in libyang before v1.0-r3 in the function resolve_feature_value() when an if-feature statement is used inside a bit. Applications that use libyang to parse untrusted input yang files may crash.
CVE-2019-20392
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
An invalid memory access flaw is present in libyang before v1.0-r1 in the function resolve_feature_value() when an if-feature statement is used inside a list key node, and the feature used is not defined. Applications that use libyang to parse untrusted input yang files may crash.
CVE-2019-20393
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
A double-free is present in libyang before v1.0-r1 in the function yyparse() when an empty description is used. Applications that use libyang to parse untrusted input yang files may be vulnerable to this flaw, which would cause a crash or potentially code execution.