Update Plugs 40 Security Holes in Java (Critical)

Oracle today released a critical patch update for its Java software that fixes at least 40 security vulnerabilities in this widely deployed program and browser plugin. Updates are available for Java 7 on both Mac and Windows.

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The latest patch brings Java 7 to Update 25 (looks like Oracle has finally followed through on its promise to stop shipping updates for Java 6). In its accompanying advisory, Oracle notes that 37 of the 40 vulnerabilities fixed in this update may be remotely exploitable without authentication — that is, they can be exploited over a network without the need for a username and password.

If you really need and use Java for specific Web sites or applications, take a few minutes to update this software. Updates are available from Java.com or via the Java Control Panel. Keep in mind that updating via the control panel will auto-select the installation of the Ask Toolbar, so de-select that if you don’t want the added crapware.

Other, seriously consider removing Java altogether.  I’ve long urged end users to junk Java unless they have a specific use for it (this advice does not scale for businesses, which often have legacy and custom applications that rely on Java). This widely installed and powerful program is riddled with security holes, and is a top target of malware writers and miscreants.

If you have an affirmative use or need for Java, unplug it from the browser unless and until you’re at a site that requires it (or at least take advantage of Click-to-Play). Java 7 lets users disable Java content in web browsers through the Java Control Panel. Alternatively, consider a dual-browser approach, unplugging Java from the browser you use for everyday surfing, and leaving it plugged in to a second browser that you only use for sites that require Java.

There are a couple of ways to find out if you have Java installed and what version may be running.  Windows users can click Start, then Run, then type “cmd” without the quotes. At the command prompt, type “java -version” (again, no quotes). Users also can visit Java.com and click the “Do I have Java?” link on the homepage. Updates also should be available via the Java Control Panel or from Java.com.

Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) users who have Java should check Software Update for any available updates. Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) and 10.8 (Mountain Lion) users can grab the updated version of Java from Java.com.

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