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Oracle rushes out patch for critical 0-day Java exploit

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In an uncommon break with its thrice-annual security update schedule, Oracle has released a patch for three Java 7 security flaws that have recently been targeted by web-based exploits.

"Due to the high severity of these vulnerabilities, Oracle recommends that customers apply this Security Alert as soon as possible," Eric Maurice, the company's director of software security assurance, said in a blog post published on Thursday.

Maurice said that the vulnerabilities patched only affect Java running in browsers, and not standalone desktop Java applications or Java running on servers. According to Oracle's official advisory on the flaws:

These vulnerabilities may be remotely exploitable without authentication, i.e., they may be exploited over a network without the need for a username and password. To be successfully exploited, an unsuspecting user running an affected release in a browser will need to visit a malicious web page that leverages this vulnerability. Successful exploits can impact the availability, integrity, and confidentiality of the user's system.

That certainly matches the description of the vulnerabilities first spotted on a rogue website by security firm FireEye on Sunday. Exploits for the flaws have since been incorporated into the notorious Blackhole malware toolkit and the Metasploit penetration testing tool.

On Wednesday, Adam Gowdiak of Polish startup Security Explorations revealed that his company had disclosed details of the vulnerabilities in question – along with 29 others – to Oracle in April of this year, but that the database giant still had not fixed the flaws as of its June Critical Patch Update (CPU).

Oracle told Security Explorations that it had developed fixes for most of the other vulnerabilities it had submitted and that they would be ready for the next Java CPU. Unfortunately, however, that patch kit wasn't scheduled to be released until October 16.

Now, in an apparent capitulation to growing public concern over the exploits, Oracle has issued a rare out-of-band update for Java 7 that it says should ameliorate the threat.

According to Maurice, Java users who run Windows can use the Java Automatic Update feature to get the latest, patched version, which is officially dubbed Java SE 7 Update 7. Users on other platforms can visit the official Java website to download and install it. ®

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