* U.S. government urged users to disable Java on Thursday
* Bugs in Java make PCs vulnerable to attack by hackers
* Update sets security settings at "high" by default
By Jim Finkle
BOSTON, Jan 13 Oracle Corp released an
emergency update to its widely used Java software for surfing
the Web on Sunday, days after the U.S government urged PC users
to disable the program because of a bug it said made computers
vulnerable to attack by hackers.
Java security expert Adam Gowdiak, who has discovered
several bugs in the software over the past year, said that the
update from Oracle leaves unfixed several critical security
"We don't dare to tell users that it's safe to enable Java
again," said Gowdiak, a researcher with Poland's Security
An Oracle spokeswoman declined to comment on Gowdiak's
Oracle said on its security blog on Sunday that its update
fixed two vulnerabilities in the version of Java 7 for Web
It said that it also switched Java's security settings to
"high" by default, making it more difficult for suspicious
programs to run on a personal computer without the knowledge of
Java is a computer language that enables programmers to
write software utilizing just one set of codes that will run on
virtually any type of computer, including ones that use
Microsoft Corp's Windows, Apple Inc's OS X and
Linux, an operating system widely employed by corporations.
It is installed in Internet browsers to access web content
and also directly on PCs, server computers and other devices
that use it to run a wide variety of computer programs. Analysts
estimate that it may be used on more than 1 billion machines
around the globe.
The Department of Homeland Security and computer security
experts said on Thursday that hackers figured out how to exploit
the bug in a version of Java used with Internet browsers to
install malicious software on PCs. That has enabled them to
commit crimes from identity theft to making infected computers
part of an ad-hoc networks that used to attack websites.
Oracle said that the flaws only affect Java 7, the program's
most-recent version, and versions of Java software designed to
run on browsers.
Java is so widely used that the software has become a prime
target for hackers. Last year, Java surpassed Adobe Systems
Inc's Reader software as the most frequently attacked
piece of software, according to security software maker
Java was responsible for 50 percent of all cyber attacks
last year in which hackers broke into computers by exploiting
software bugs, according to Kaspersky. That was followed by
Adobe Reader, which was involved in 28 percent of all incidents.
Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer were involved in about 3
percent of incidents, according to the survey.
The Department of Homeland Security said attackers could
trick targets into visiting malicious websites that would infect
their PCs with software capable of exploiting the bug in Java.
It said an attacker could also infect a legitimate website
by uploading malicious software that would infect machines of
computer users who trust that site because they have previously
visited it without experiencing any problems.
Security experts have been scrutinizing the safety of Java
since a similar security scare in August, which prompted some of
them to advise using the software only on an as-needed basis.