Post-patch, US-CERT continues call to disable Java plug-in
It's justified, say security experts, who cite known but unpatched bugs
Computerworld - Even after Oracle patched critical Java vulnerabilities on Monday, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) continued urging users to disable Java browser plug-ins.
"Due to the number and severity of this and prior Java vulnerabilities, it is recommended that Java be disabled temporarily in Web browsers," said US-CERT in a note Monday, a day after Oracle shipped an "out-of-band," or emergency update.
While calls to disable a plug-in -- or even to stop using a particular browser -- are not uncommon in the face of active exploits of an unpatched vulnerability, it's unusual that they continue after a patch is released.
But a pair of security professionals, including a researcher known for uncovering scores of Java bugs, said US-CERT's move was justified.
"Disabling Java seems to be a reasonable step to mitigate the risk associated with confirmed, not-yet-patched flaws," said Adam Gowdiak, founder and CEO of Security Explorations, in an email late Tuesday.
Gowdiak was referring to other Java vulnerabilities he has reported to Oracle, including two that he has been told will be patched in an upcoming Feb. 19 update.
Andy Chou, CTO of Coverity, a San Francisco-based developer whose products scan other software for potential security flaws, agreed with Gowdiak.
"Most users don't need to visit sites that use Java applets," said Chou in an email interview. "For them Java is just dead code. [So] it seems reasonable for many users to turn off a feature they don't need."
Recommendations from US-CERT, which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, carry special weight: The organization acts as a threat clearinghouse and security coordinator for both the public and private sectors.
Gowdiak noted that US-CERT could be basing its recommendation not only on publicly-available information, but also on confidential government sources.
Disabling the Java plug-in inside browsers may be the solution for many, as Chou argued, but some -- enterprise workers especially, but not exclusively -- rely on Java web applets.
So what's their move?
Gowdiak and Chou each recommended that users run Firefox or Chrome, both of which provide a feature dubbed "click-to-play" that requires the user to explicitly authorize a plug-in's execution.
In Chrome, the setting is under the advanced section of Settings (Windows) or Preferences (OS X), in the Privacy subsection. Users must click the "Content Settings" button, then scroll to view the "Plug-ins" listing.
- Comprehensive Advanced Threat Defense The hot topic in the information security industry these days is "Advanced Threat Defense" (ATD). This paper describes a comprehensive, network-based approach to...
- Advanced Threat Defense: A Comprehensive Approach In this interview, Peter George, president, General Dynamics Fidelis Cybersecurity Solutions, explains why we need more than anti-malware, and what constitutes a comprehensive...
- Who's Spying on You? You're aware of the threats of malware to your business but what about the ever-changing ground rules? Cybercriminals today are launching attacks against...
- 5 Things You Didn't Know About Cloud Backup IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there's a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical...
- NSS Labs & Cisco Present: Evaluating Leading Breach Detection Systems Today's constantly evolving advanced malware and APTs can evade point-in-time defenses to penetrate networks. Security professionals must evolve their strategy in lockstep to...
- Will the Real Endpoint Threat Detection and Response Please Stand Up? This webinar explores new technologies & process for protecting endpoints from advanced attackers as well as the innovations that are pushing the envelope... All Malware and Vulnerabilities White Papers | Webcasts