Feeds

Oracle updates Java versioning to allow more security fixes

New scheme skips numbers to leave room for emergencies

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Seemingly borrowing a page from the old, line-numbered BASIC programs of the 1980s, Oracle has adopted a new version numbering strategy for the Java Development Kit (JDK) – one that skips numbers, in case Oracle has to go back and plunk in new code later.

Traditionally, Oracle has issued new patches for the JDK on a predictable, regular basis, shipping Critical Patch Updates (CPUs) three times a year on an advertised schedule. That practice was designed to suit the needs of enterprise IT admins, who typically need lots of time to test new patches before they apply them.

But given how rapidly new Java vulnerabilities have been popping up of late, the database giant has been forced to break with tradition and release emergency patches off schedule, lest exploits run rampant.

That's been happening so often, in fact, that it has started causing problems for Oracle's version numbering system. The company has been forced to assign version numbers to the quick-fix, small patches that were originally intended for later CPUs, then renumber the CPUs – flummoxing those stodgy, risk-averse enterprise admins.

Now Oracle has had enough of it. "To avoid confusion caused by renumbering releases, we are adopting a new numbering scheme," the company announced in a bulletin issued on Tuesday, although "avoiding confusion" might be overstating it.

Here's how the new plan works: The JDK will keep its current versioning scheme, where each update is assigned a code that starts with the current major JDK version number, followed by a lowercase "u" and the current update number. So, for example, the current version of JDK 7 is update 7u21.

Traditionally, Limited Update patches – the kind that add new features and non-security fixes – have been assigned even numbers. CPUs, which only contain fixes for security vulnerabilities, are assigned odd numbers. None of that will change under the new system, but what will change is how the numbers are doled out for future planned updates.

Under the new scheme, Limited Updates will only be assigned numbers in multiples of 20. So, since we're on JDK 7 version 7u21 now, when the next Limited Update shows up it will be version 7u40. The one after that will be 7u60, and so on.

In between these feature updates, CPUs will be assigned odd numbers that are multiples of 5, added to the version number of the previous Limited Update. If you're following along, that means the next CPU should carry version number 7u25, followed by 7u30 and 7u35.

All of the numbers in between are up for grabs. As Oracle's bulletin explains, "This numbering scheme will leave several numbers between releases which will allow us to insert releases – for example security alerts or support releases, should that become necessary – without having to renumber later releases."

Emergency patches for security alerts will be assigned whatever is the next available number, odd or even, as long as it doesn't fall on a multiple of 5 or 20.

We know – clear as mud, right? But according to Oracle, this rather ham-fisted fix is the best approach for now, to maintain compatibility with old code that expects the JDK version number code to be formatted exactly the way it is today.

"A more elegant solution requires changing the version format of the JDK to accommodate multiple types of releases," the company writes. It adds, however, that this won't happen until some future major Java update, to give developers adequate time to prepare for the change – those lumbering enterprise admins raising their ugly heads again. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.