New vulnerability found in Java 7 opens door to 10-year-old attack, researchers say

The vulnerability allows attackers to bypass the Java security sandbox, researchers from Security Explorations said

Security researchers from Polish vulnerability research firm Security Explorations claim to have identified a new vulnerability in Java 7 that could allow attackers to bypass the software's security sandbox and execute arbitrary code on the underlying system.

The vulnerability was reported Thursday to Oracle along with proof-of-concept (PoC) exploit code, said Adam Gowdiak, the CEO and founder of Security Explorations, in a message to the Full Disclosure mailing list.

According to Gowdiak, the vulnerability is located in the Reflection API (application programming interface), a feature that was introduced in Java 7 and which has been the source of many critical Java vulnerabilities so far. Security Explorations confirmed that its PoC exploit code works against Java SE 7 Update 25 and earlier versions, he said.

The new issue identified by Security Explorations can allow hackers to implement a "classic" attack that has been known for at least 10 years, Gowdiak said.

This kind of attack used to affect the Java virtual machine (VM) in its early days, in the late '90s, he said via email.

"It's one of those risks one should protect against in the first place when new features are added to Java at the core VM level," Gowdiak said. It is surprising to discover that protection against this type of attack was not implemented for the Reflection API when Java 7 was being developed, he said.

The researcher claims that the vulnerability allows attackers to violate a fundamental Java VM security feature -- the safety of its type system.

"As a result of the attack, one can conduct arbitrary cast operations between Java data types like an integer and a pointer," he said via email. "In Java, cast operations need to follow strict rules, so that memory is accessed in a safe way."

Gowdiak has criticized the implementation of the Reflection API in the past, saying that the feature doesn't seem to have been subjected to a thorough security review.

He believes that the presence of this new vulnerability in Java 7 raises questions about the effectiveness of Oracle's software security assurance and security-code review practices. "A huge pile of bugs go undetected by these policies and procedures," he said.

At the end of May, Nandini Ramani, Oracle's vice president of engineering for the Java Client and Mobile Platforms, reaffirmed in a blog post the company's commitment to strengthening the security of Java.

"The Java development team has expanded the use of automated security testing tools, facilitating regular coverage over large sections of Java platform code," Ramani said at the time. The team worked with Oracle's primary provider of source-code analysis services to make those tools more effective in the Java environment and developed so-called "fuzzing" analysis tools to weed out certain types of vulnerabilities, she said.

"Sophisticated analysis tools should not miss simple Reflection API flaws," Gowdiak said. "That should speak for itself."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags online safetySecurity ExplorationssecurityExploits / vulnerabilities

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?