Most Java-enabled browsers vulnerable to widespread Java exploits, Websense says

Only 5 percent of actively used browser installations have the most up-to-date version of the Java plug-in, the vendor's data shows

Most browser installations use outdated versions of the Java plug-in that are vulnerable to at least one of several exploits currently used in popular Web attack toolkits, according to statistics published Monday by security vendor Websense.

The company recently used its threat intelligence network, which monitors billions of Web requests originating from "tens of millions" of endpoint computers protected by its products, to detect the Java versions that are installed on those systems and are available through their Web browsers. Websense provides Web and email gateway security products for businesses, but it also has a partnership with Facebook to scan links clicked by users on the social networking site for malicious content.

The Java telemetry data gathered by Websense showed that only 5.5 percent of Java-enabled browsers have the most up-to-date versions of the software's browser plug-in -- Java 7 Update 17 (7u17) and Java 6 Update 43 (6u43) -- installed. These two versions were released on March 4 in order to address a vulnerability that was already being exploited in active attacks at the time.

According to Websense, an exploit for that vulnerability has since been integrated into the Cool Exploit Kit, a Web attack toolkit used by cybercriminals to launch mass drive-by download attacks that infect computers with malware when visiting compromised or malicious websites.

Cool Exploit Kit is a high-end attack toolkit that requires a subscription of US$10,000 per month, so there's an argument to be made that not many cybercriminals can afford it. However, Websense's data shows that a large number of Java-enabled browser installations are also vulnerable to exploits used in much cheaper and widespread exploit kits.

For example, the company found that around 71 percent of Java-enabled browser installations were vulnerable to an older exploit that's currently present in four different Web attack toolkits: RedKit, CritXPack, Gong Da and Blackhole 2.0. The exploit targets a Java vulnerability called CVE-2012-4681 that was patched by Oracle in August 2012.

More than 75 percent of the Java-enabled browsers scanned by Websense used a Java plug-in version that was more than six months old, and nearly two-thirds used a version that was more than a year old. Users of those browsers don't benefit from the security controls introduced by Oracle in Java 7 Update 11 that prevent Java applets from running inside browsers without confirmation by default.

The data shows that when it comes to Java, zero-day attacks -- attacks exploiting vulnerabilities that were previously unknown to the public -- should not be getting all of the attention, security researchers from Websense said in a blog post.

Other security experts have said in the past that Oracle should find a way to improve the adoption rate of Java updates, possibly by offering the option of silent, automatic updates like Google or Adobe did in Chrome, Flash Player and Adobe Reader. Silent software updates are not popular in corporate environments, where patches need to be tested for compatibility and stability issues before being deployed on systems, but they would probably help reduce the fragmentation of Java versions in the consumer space if implemented.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags patchesonline safetysecurityDesktop securityadobepatch managementExploits / vulnerabilitiesmalwareOraclewebsenseGoogle

More about Adobe SystemsFacebookGoogleOracleWebsense

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Lucian Constantin

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts