New Java Attack Rolled Into Exploit Kits

A new exploit that takes advantage of a recently-patched critical security flaw in Java is making the rounds in the criminal underground. The exploit, which appears to work against all but the latest versions of Java, is being slowly folded into automated attack tools.

The exploit attacks a vulnerability that exists in Oracle Java SE JDK and JRE 7 and 6 Update 27 and earlier. If you are using Java 6 Update 29, or Java 7 Update 1, then you have the latest version that is patched against this and 19 other security threats. If you are using a vulnerable version of Java, it’s time to update. Not sure whether you have Java or what version you may be running? Check out this link, and then click the “Do I have Java?” link below the big red “Free Java Download” button.

A few weeks back, researcher Michael ‘mihi’ Schierl outlined how one might exploit this particular Java flaw. Over the weekend, I stumbled on a discussion in an exclusive cybercrime forum about an exploit that appears to have been weaponized along the same lines as described by Schierl. Below is a recording of a video posted by one of the members that shows the attack in action.

Java exploits are notoriously successful when bundled into commercial exploit packs, software kits that can turn a hacked Web site into a virtual minefield for Web users who aren’t keeping up to date with the latest security patches.  Users would need only to browse to a booby-trapped site with a version of Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer that is running anything older than the latest Java package, and the site could silently install malware (according to a miscreant selling access to the exploit, it does not run reliably against Google Chrome for some reason).

Because Java is cross-platform, this attack could theoretically be used to infiltrate non-Windows systems, such as computers running Mac OS X (Apple issued its own update to fix this flaw and other Java bugs earlier this month). For now, though, I’ve only heard about it being used to target Windows PCs: It is slowly being incorporated into the BlackHole exploit kit, one of the most widely-deployed exploit packs on the market today.

Reached via instant message, the hacker principally responsible for maintaining and selling BlackHole said the new Java exploit was being rolled out for free to existing license holders. For all others, the exploit can be had for a $4,000 price tag, in addition to the cost of a BlackHole license, which goes for $700 for three months, $1,000 for six months, or $1,500 per year. The author of BlackHole also sells his own hosted solution, in which customers can rent bulletproof servers with pre-installed copies of his kit for $200 a week, or $500 per month.

I stand by my advice urging those who don’t need Java to junk it; most people who have it won’t miss it. For those who need Java for the occasional site or service, disconnecting it from the browser plugins and temporarily reconnecting when needed is one way to minimize issues with this powerful program. Leaving the Java plugin installed in a secondary browser that is only used for sites or services that require Java is another alternative.

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