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Network Security

Homeland Security Warning: Disable Java from Browsers

Homeland Security Warning: Disable Java from Browsers
January 11, 2013 2:25PM

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One of Java's strengths increases its vulnerability -- its much touted ability to run the same code on multiple platforms. This can be useful for developers, who can avoid having to create different versions for a variety of operating system configurations. But if there's a security flaw, Java's strength can also become a criminal hacker's dream scenario.

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It's not every day that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security makes an urgent recommendation to computer users. But they are doing so now, asking people to disable Java software because of a newly discovered security vulnerability that opens up millions of computers to criminal hacking.

The warning comes after a security flaw was discovered earlier this week that experts say could be used to attack computers. Several popular exploit kits, which are tools used by criminals to attack vulnerable computers, have recently added the ability to exploit the newly found flaw.

Java is installed on millions of Mac, Windows and Linux computers worldwide via browser plug-ins, and users are being advised to disable the plug-ins.

'Like Open Hunting Season'

One security expert told the Reuters news service that the current situation is "like open hunting season on consumers," while another described Java as "a mess" that is not secure.

Generally, consumers do not need Java in their browsers, but some businesses may be using it for online activities. For instance, Java is utilized in Citrix's widely used online collaboration software, GoToMeeting.

In a posting Thursday on the Web site of its Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT), Homeland Security said that the "Java 7 Update 10 and earlier contain an unspecified vulnerability that can allow a remote, unauthenticated attacker to execute arbitrary code on a vulnerable system."

It noted that a remote attacker could convince a Web user to visit a specially made Web page, which could then carry out the attack. The attacking code could infect a well-known, legitimate site as well as ones with lesser credibility, and then stage the attack from there. Since there are no known practical solutions, the agency recommends that users disable Java in Web browsers.

Instructions for Removal

Oracle, which acquired Java when it bought Sun, has a page that describes how to disable Java for all browsers on Windows machines, or individually by browser on any platform. The instructions, How Do I disable Java in my web browser?, are located at http://www.java.com/en/download/help/disable_browser.xml

One of Java's strengths increases its vulnerability -- its much touted ability to run the same code on multiple platforms. This "write once, run many" ability can be very useful for developers, who then can avoid having to create different native versions for a variety of different operating system configurations. But if there's a security flaw, Java's strength can also become a criminal hacker's dream scenario.

In August, a comparable security scare led security experts to warn of such a vulnerability, and to recommend using Java only when needed. In September, the government of Germany advised its populace against using Microsoft's Internet Explorer until that company patched a vulnerability. In October, Apple removed old versions of Java from all Mac-compatible browsers when Mac users installed a new OS X version, and both Apple and Oracle declined comment about the action.

Tell Us What You Think
Comment:

Name:

Khadijah:

Posted: 2013-02-13 @ 7:24am PT
I just got an email form Paretogic in regard to the Java issue. In the email they want me to scan for any issues. I just want to know is this legit.

Shaheen:

Posted: 2013-01-13 @ 1:06pm PT
The mother of the Java technology knows what it is downloading in our web computing devices through the game of software updates. We entrusted the mother, so she must be held responsible and able to provide an in-built security mechanism to protect us from any soft-attack in real time.

Or, is it patronized by the CARETAKER?

Dave:

Posted: 2013-01-13 @ 8:12am PT
Dwight, JavaScript is NOT Java. The ONLY thing they have in common are the characters "java" in their name. You should not disable JAVASCRIPT if you want most websites to work.

RV:

Posted: 2013-01-13 @ 8:06am PT
javascript and java are not the same thing...
the warning said nothing about javascript.

Dwight Smith:

Posted: 2013-01-12 @ 6:09am PT
Good info, it was very clear to me. I was happy to see the warnings plaster the Internet so quickly. For users of iPads, I went to settings and simply turn it off. How do I know this worked? I went back to SecurityWatch, another site that put out this warning and was unable to view the comments. The message at the bottom of the page said I needed to enable JavaScript.

Adam:

Posted: 2013-01-12 @ 5:53am PT
HOMELAND Security is warning about it because they INVENTED IT.

It's the stuxnet from Iran being sent back at us.

Stuxnet ALSO attacked the Zero-Day vulnerability in Windows.... hmmm imagine that.

KT k:

Posted: 2013-01-11 @ 5:17pm PT
Can't figure out how this works on Mac. Went to Oracle's site, and did as they asked, but then can't write on many, many sites, including social media. Not to mention, the instructions are not for uninstalling, but disabling.

Kelly Heck:

Posted: 2013-01-11 @ 3:50pm PT
i think it's a sad shame, when Americans have no trust, and total fear of their own government., God sees the heart, and the mind. You can not hide from him, and you will pay. Our government is supposed to protect, and serve us, not the other way around. You all took an oath, and made a pledge, to serve your country, it's people, and the constitution. You people working FOR the Government, and against the USA, are harming, destroying, and killing your own families as well.



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