Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/10/19/unprecedented_java_exploits/

Java surpasses Adobe kit as most attacked software

Researcher sees 'unprecedented wave of Java exploitation'

By Dan Goodin

Posted in Security, 19th October 2010 18:58 GMT

Oracle's Java framework has surpassed Adobe applications as the most attacked software package, according to a Microsoft researcher who warned she was seeing “an unprecedented wave of Java exploitation.”

The spike began in the third-quarter of last year and has climbed steadily since, according to data reported on Monday by Holly Stewart, a member of the Microsoft Malware Protection Center. By the beginning of this year, the number of Java exploits “had well surpassed the total number of Adobe-related exploits we monitored,” she said.

The spike is mostly driven by attacks on three separate vulnerabilities that Oracle patched long ago. As a result attacks on Java have “gone from hundreds of thousands per quarter to millions,” Stewart blogged.

As Microsoft has released new versions of its software that are harder to exploit, attackers looking for ways to install malware have turned their attention to other ubiquitous PC titles. With a massive share of Windows machines, Adobe Reader emerged earlier this year as the world's most exploited app, according to antivirus provider F-Secure. Adobe's Flash Player, also because of its broad base of users, has long been a favorite as well.

Java, which Oracle inherited from Sun Microsystems, has remained vulnerable, too, and exploits are now coming into the mainstream. One of the things driving the trend, according to security reporter Brian Krebs, are updates that add Java attacks to Eleonore, Crimepack and other exploit kits that malware purveyors use to streamline the installation of malware on victim machines.

“Java is ubiquitous, and, as was once true with browsers and document readers like Adobe, people don't think to update it,” Stewart wrote. “On top of that, Java is a technology that runs in the background to make more visible components work.”

The software has never lived up to many of the promises that Sun made about it. Chances are it can be uninstalled from most desktop machines and the user won't even notice. ®