Java tops 2012 list for most dangerous software flaws

Some vulnerable software will stick around until hardware is trashed.

Adobe, Apple were behind the most software flaws in 2012, but Oracle’s Java was the most exploited and dangerous software for the year, according to research by Kaspersky Lab.

Adobe Shockwave/Flash Player, Apple iTunes/QuickTime and Oracle Java accounted for 28 of 37 vulnerabilities found on at least 10 percent of 11 million Windows machines that Kaspersky analysed during 2012.

While Apple’s and Adobe’s products clocked up more discovered flaws in Kaspersky’s filter, the five Java flaws for which there were exploits made it the most attacked. There were two exploited flaws for Flash and one for Adobe Reader.

According to the report, the lowest proportion of users exposed to an exploited Java flaw occurred in February and was 34 percent. The highest was in October when three Java vulnerabilities affected 61 percent.

The report does not include the last two Java 7 updates from Oracle that rushed out in January and February this year to patch zero day flaws that hackers were exploiting.

As Oracle’s director of software security assurance noted at the February update, “the fact that Java in browsers is OS-independent, makes Java an attractive target for malicious hackers.”

Not surprisingly, many users were also slow to apply patches released by Oracle. Seven weeks after Oracle released its August patch update, only 30 percent in its scan had updated to the latest version, by which time Oracle had released another update to address a new set of vulnerabilities.

The upgrade speed for major browsers is faster than updates available for actively exploited vulnerabilities in Java, according to Kaspersky.

The story was similar for vulnerable Adobe Flash Player and Reader products, which persisted on millions of PCs despite known exploits for these versions. A version of Flash Player from 2010 remained on 10 percent of systems in the scan, according to Kaspersky.

“It seems possible that this vulnerability will only disappear when all computers currently running obsolete software are replaced with new ones,” the report speculates.

The company called for more “streamlined and automated” update processes for installed software.

“Even when a software vendor does its best to recognise a security flaw and releases an update in a timely manner, this means nothing for a significant proportion of users,” the security firm notes.

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