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Did Oracle Drop the Java Patch Ball?
Did Oracle Drop the Java Patch Ball?

By Jennifer LeClaire
September 4, 2012 5:03PM

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"I can't say that [Oracle's] management of Java, and this is a good example, has been particularly stellar," said analyst Charles King. "Just because you buy a Ferrari doesn't mean that you become a great race-car driver. It takes a certain amount of skill and willingness and responsibility that, when absent, can lead to some embarrassing situations."
 



Just when you thought you were safe from the Java exploit: Beyond Apple device IDs being allegedly hacked from an FBI agent's laptop via last week's Java flaw, a security firm in Poland, Security Explorations, is saying a patch issued by Oracle still leaves the software insecure.

And Symantec, the SANS Institute's Internal Storm Center and Websense are sounding the alarm about new approaches being used for the Java exploit. Oracle could not immediately be reached for comment.

Nitro Attacks Revisited

In October 2011, Symantec documented a particular targeted attack campaign dubbed The Nitro Attacks. Attackers were primarily targeting chemical companies. Symantec said those attackers have escalated their efforts through a zero-day Java vulnerability in the wild.

"The traditional modus operandi of the Nitro attackers is to send an e-mail to victims," Symantec reports in its Security Response blog. "That e-mail contains an attachment, which is a password-protected self-extracting zip file. The e-mail claims to be an update for some piece of commonly installed software. The targeted user extracts it, runs it, and is infected with a copy of Backdoor.Darkmoon (also known as Poison Ivy)."

In these latest attacks, Symantec said, the attackers have developed a more sophisticated technique. They are using a Java zero-day, hosted as a .jar file on Web sites, to infect victims. Like the October 2011 attacks, Symantec said the attackers are using Backdoor.Darkmoon, re-using command-and-control infrastructure, and even re-using file names such as "Flash_update.exe".

"It is likely that the attackers are sending targeted users e-mails containing a link to the malicious jar file," the firm said. "The Nitro attackers appear to be continuing with their previous campaign."

Infamous Amazon E-Mail

Meanwhile, SANS and Websense are both pointing to a Java exploit that, if successful, could allow cyber criminals to deliver more malicious payloads to victims' machines. And that, Websense said, could lead to the exfiltration of personal and financial data. It comes in the form of an e-mail supposedly from Amazon that directs victims to a page containing the recent Java exploit.

"On 1st September, Websense ThreatSeeker Network intercepted over 10,000 malicious e-mails with the subject 'You Order With Amazon.com' enticing the recipient to 'click here' to verify a fictitious order...." Websense wrote on its blog.

"Once the victim has clicked the link, they are redirected to an obfuscated page hosting the Blackhole Exploit Kit....This e-mail campaign further illustrates the ingenuity and speed at which cyber-criminals package and propagate malicious content along with social-engineering techniques in order to exploit both recent software vulnerabilities and the trusting nature of end-users."

Java Mismanagement?

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, said the drama around the Oracle Java patch underlines the danger of Java -- but it also highlights the challenges that a vendor unfamiliar with a given technology can experience when it becomes largely responsible for that technology.

"By all accounts, one of the most attractive factors of the Sun acquisition for Oracle was the company's investment in Java. Oracle considered that to be a potentially very valuable property," King said.

"I can't say that the company's management of Java, and this is a good example, has been particularly stellar. Just because you buy a Ferrari doesn't mean that you become a great race-car driver. It takes a certain amount of skill and willingness and responsibility that, when absent, can lead to some embarrassing situations like the one Oracle is in right now."
 

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