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Microsoft latest to 'fess up to Java-based Mac attack

Redmond experiences 'similar intrusion' to Facebook and Apple

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Microsoft appears to be the latest big tech firm to have been hit by cyber attackers targeting Macs with a zero-day Java vulnerability, following a sophisticated campaign which has already infected developers at Facebook and Apple.

In a blog post published late last Friday, Microsoft’s GM of Trustworthy Computing Security, Matt Thomlinson, explained that Redmond recently experienced a “similar security intrusion”.

He added the following:

"Consistent with our security response practices, we chose not to make a statement during the initial information gathering process. During our investigation, we found a small number of computers, including some in our Mac business unit, that were infected by malicious software using techniques similar to those documented by other organizations. We have no evidence of customer data being affected and our investigation is ongoing."

Thomlinson sought to reassure customers by claiming that Microsoft’s continual system of internal security evaluation means “additional people, processes, and technologies” can be deployed if gaps are found, in order to prevent similar incursions in the future.

The extent of the attack is still unclear, although some researchers are claiming hundreds of other companies may have had their Macs targeted in the same way. The large scale breach of Twitter earlier this month has been linked to the same Java zero-day vulnerability.

As for those behind the attack – the usual suspects of China and Eastern European hackers have been mentioned.

Last week, Apple finally patched the Java security hole in Mac OSX which was being exploited in the attack, a fortnight after Oracle’s pre-Patch-Tuesday' update fixed the same hole, in a move which will do nothing to reassure enterprise Mac users of the security of their platform.

Security researchers at Sophos are urging users to turn off Java in the browser as a matter of course in order to close down this growing area of risk.

All in all it was a pretty bad end to the week for Microsoft last Friday, after its Windows Azure storage cloud suffered a worldwide outage thanks to an expired SSL certificate. ®

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