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.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

7/18/2013
10:07 AM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

'Write Once, Pwn Anywhere': Less Than 1 Percent Of Enterprises Run Newest Version Of Java

Most businesses have multiple, outdated versions of the app on their endpoints, new report finds

Most everyone knows by now that Java is one of the most targeted applications on the endpoint. But new data shows that enterprises still harbor the most vulnerable and targeted version of Java -- the older version 6 -- on their endpoints.

More than 90 percent of organizations are running a version of Java that's at least five years old, and 82 percent of endpoints run Java version 6, according to a new report by Bit9 that investigated Java installations in the enterprise. There are an average of 1.6 versions of Java on every endpoint, and nearly half of all endpoints have more than two versions of the application.

Fewer than 1 percent run the newest version of Java: version 7 Update 25, Bit9 found.

The problem with all of this, of course, is that older versions of Java are prime targets for attackers. And just because you update Java doesn't mean the older versions automatically disappear from the machine. "For the past 15 years, IT administrators have been lied to: It's best to continually update your Java. But updating is not the same as upgrading until recently," says Harry Sverdlove, CTO at Bit9. "So you apply a Java update, but it left the old version ... therein lies the problem. Most organizations have multiple versions of Java running on all of their endpoints."

Sverdlove says it's simple for an attacker to target an older version of Java on an endpoint even if there are newer ones on the machine. "So the process of years of upgrading is in vain," he says.

[Many end users stuck with older Java to run certain apps, Websense finds. See No Java Patch For You: 93 Percent Of Users Run Older Versions Of The App . ]

Oracle has been gradually addressing Java's security issues, though. Java version 7 can be set to automatically replace older versions when it updates, for example, Sverdlove notes. "So now, if you start with Version 7, you will always have just one version of Java."

The catch is that it only updates the latest version on the machine, leaving even older ones lying there as bait for an attacker. "Updating to the latest version of Java -- 7.25 -- will remove the most recent prior version on that machine. So if a version 6 series of Java is the newest version running, then updating to 7.25 would remove that version 6 rev," Sverdlove says.

But if there are multiple outdated versions of Java on a machine, Java 7.25 will remove only the latest version of Java, not the even older ones: "If 5.x and 6.x are both installed, an update will replace 6.x with 7.25," he says. Version 5.x won't be removed in that case.

The good news with Java Update 21 and above is that the Java launcher warns the user when code tries to run on older versions of Java.

Bit9 found that Java 6 Update 20 has 215 vulnerabilities, and 96 of those are a 10 on the CVSS scale. Around 10 percent of the endpoints Bit9 sampled were running that version of Java 6.

So why don't enterprises merely purge older versions of Java? It's the old legacy application problem. Applications that are tied to a specific version of Java could lose functionality if only the new version of Java were running. And Oracle is well-aware of this conundrum: "They keep all versions around because they are always making functional changes. So in case you've got an application that relied on the old stuff, they need to make sure it's all backward-compatible," Sverdlove says.

Some 42 percent of Java versions running on endpoints were 10 or more years older, and 5 percent of companies had more than 100 versions of Java running in their networks.

Sverdlove recommends that enterprises take inventory of what Java apps are running in their environments. "They will be surprised at how much they find out there. Each [older version] represents a potential risk," he says.

Java Version 6 is the biggest culprit, mainly due to its age and all of the malware toolkits available for it in the black market. "There's a whole commercial cottage industry on how to best take advantage of vulnerabilities in Java," Sverdlove says.

Meanwhile, Oracle is moving in the right direction with Java, he says. "They've clearly taken security very seriously and are putting a lot of effort into making it more secure," he says.

Oracle in April announced that it would put the release of Java 8 on hold until the first quarter of 2014 due to its "renewed focus on security."

The full Bit9 report is available here for download.

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
Mark532010
50%
50%
Mark532010,
User Rank: Moderator
7/19/2013 | 3:15:49 PM
re: 'Write Once, Pwn Anywhere': Less Than 1 Percent Of Enterprises Run Newest Version Of Java
So many companies focus on trying to attract "world class" security experts proficient in detecting zero-day vulnerabilities, when the reality is 95+% of attacks occur because the effort into these types of things is insufficient. Its unsexy and grunt work but getting the last 1% of user desktops fixed is hard work, identifying and patching the last 1% of servers, especially the sandbox vm's sitting under someone's desk, is hard work - but it is all necessary.
AnonymousMan
50%
50%
AnonymousMan,
User Rank: Moderator
7/18/2013 | 4:49:59 PM
re: 'Write Once, Pwn Anywhere': Less Than 1 Percent Of Enterprises Run Newest Version Of Java
"Sverdlove says it's simple for an attacker to target an older version of Java on an endpoint even if there are newer ones on the machine"

Tell us more about this. I thought this was fixed back in 2008?
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
Google Lets iPhone Users Turn Device into Security Key
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/15/2020
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-2018-16270
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
Samsung Galaxy Gear series before build RE2 includes the hcidump utility with no privilege or permission restriction. This allows an unprivileged process to dump Bluetooth HCI packets to an arbitrary file path.
CVE-2018-16271
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
The wemail_consumer_service (from the built-in application wemail) in Samsung Galaxy Gear series allows an unprivileged process to manipulate a user's mailbox, due to improper D-Bus security policy configurations. An arbitrary email can also be sent from the mailbox via the paired smartphone. This a...
CVE-2018-16272
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
The wpa_supplicant system service in Samsung Galaxy Gear series allows an unprivileged process to fully control the Wi-Fi interface, due to the lack of its D-Bus security policy configurations. This affects Tizen-based firmwares including Samsung Galaxy Gear series before build RE2.
CVE-2019-10780
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
BibTeX-ruby before 5.1.0 allows shell command injection due to unsanitized user input being passed directly to the built-in Ruby Kernel.open method through BibTeX.open.
CVE-2019-10781
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
In schema-inspector before 1.6.9, a maliciously crafted JavaScript object can bypass the `sanitize()` and the `validate()` function used within schema-inspector.