Friday Feb 01, 2013

February 2013 Critical Patch Update for Java SE Released

Hi, this is Eric Maurice again.

Oracle just released the February 2013 Critical Patch Update for Java SE.  The original Critical Patch Update for Java SE was scheduled on February 19th, but Oracle decided to accelerate the release of this Critical Patch Update because active exploitation “in the wild” of one of the vulnerabilities affecting the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) in desktop browsers, was addressed with this Critical Patch Update. 

In addition to a number of security in-depth fixes, the February 2013 Critical Patch Update for Java SE contains fixes for 50 security vulnerabilities.  44 of these vulnerabilities only affect client deployment of Java (e.g., Java in Internet browsers).  In other words, these vulnerabilities can only be exploited on desktops through Java Web Start applications or Java applets.  In addition, one vulnerability affects the installation process of client deployment of Java (i.e. installation of the Java Runtime Environment on desktops).  Note also that this Critical Patch Update includes the fixes that were previously released through Security Alert CVE-2013-0422.

3 of the vulnerabilities fixed in this Critical Patch Update apply to client and server deployment of Java;   that means that these vulnerabilities can be exploited on desktops through Java Web Start and Java applets in Browser, or in servers, by supplying malicious input to APIs in the vulnerable server components.  In some instances, the exploitation scenario of this kind of bugs on servers is very improbable; for example, one of these vulnerabilities can only be exploited against a server in the unlikely scenario that the server was allowed to process image files from an untrusted source. 

Finally, 2 of the vulnerabilities fixed in this Critical Patch Update only apply to server deployment of the Java Secure Socket Extension (JSSE). 

The maximum CVSS Base Score for the vulnerabilities fixed in this Critical Patch Update is 10.0.   This score affects 26 vulnerabilities: 23 of which are client-side vulnerabilities, and 3 applicable to client and server deployments.   

This Critical Patch Update is consistent with previous Java security releases, in that most of the vulnerabilities addressed in this Critical Patch Update only affect Java and Java FX client deployments.  This reflects the fact that the Java server environment is more secure than the Java Runtime Environment in browsers because servers operate in a more secure and controlled environment. 

 The popularity of the Java Runtime Environment in desktop browsers, and the fact that Java in browsers is OS-independent, makes Java an attractive target for malicious hackers.  Note however that, as stated in a previous blog entry, Oracle reports the most severe CVSS Base Score. 

Furthermore, to help mitigate the threat of malicious applets (Java exploits in internet browsers), Oracle has switched the Java security settings to “high” by default.  The "high" security setting requires users to expressly authorize the execution of unsigned applets allowing a browser user to deny execution of a suspicious applet (where in the past a suspicious applet could execute "silently").  As a result, unsuspecting users visiting malicious web sites will be notified before an applet is run and will gain the ability to deny the execution of the potentially malicious applet.  In addition, Oracle has recently introduced the ability for users to easily disable Java in their browsers through the Java Control Panel on Windows.

As stated at the beginning of this blog, Oracle decided to release this Critical Patch Update earlier than planned.  After receiving reports of a vulnerability in the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) in desktop browsers, Oracle quickly confirmed these reports, and then proceeded with accelerating normal release testing around the upcoming Critical Patch Update distribution, which already contained a fix for the issue.  Oracle felt that, releasing this Critical Patch Update two weeks ahead of our intended schedule, instead of releasing a one-off fix through a Security Alert, would be more effective in helping preserve the security posture of Java customers.  The size of this Critical Patch Update, as well as its early publication, demonstrate Oracle’s intention to accelerate the release of Java fixes, particularly to help address the security worthiness of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) in desktop browsers.

For more information:

The advisory for the February 2013 Critical Patch Update is located at http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/topics/security/javacpufeb2013-1841061.html

More information about setting the security level in the Java client is available at http://docs.oracle.com/javase/7/docs/technotes/guides/jweb/client-security.html

More information about Oracle Software Security Assurance is located at http://www.oracle.com/us/support/assurance/index.html

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