Oracle knew about currently exploited Java vulnerabilities for months, researcher says

Oracle was notified in April about the zero-day vulnerabilities being exploited now by attackers, researcher says

Oracle knew since April about the existence of the two unpatched Java 7 vulnerabilities that are currently being exploited in malware attacks, according to Adam Gowdiak, the founder and CEO of Polish security firm Security Explorations.

Security Explorations reported 19 Java 7 security issues to Oracle on Apr. 2. Those issues included the two zero-day -- unpatched -- vulnerabilities that attackers are exploiting to infect computers with malware, Gowdiak said Wednesday via email.

The company continued to report Java 7 vulnerabilities to Oracle in the following months until the total number reached 29. "We demonstrated 16 full Java SE 7 sandbox compromises with the use of our bugs," Gowdiak said.

According to security researchers from security firm Immunity, the Java exploit published online earlier this week and integrated into the Blackhole attack toolkit makes use of two Java vulnerabilities not one, as it was previously believed.

"The first bug was used to get a reference to sun.awt.SunToolkit class that is restricted to applets while the second bug invokes the getField public static method on SunToolkit using reflection with a trusted immediate caller bypassing a security check," Immunity developer Esteban Guillardoy said Tuesday in a blog post.

While both of those vulnerabilities, one in the ClassFinder class and one in the MethodFinder class, were found and reported by Security Explorations in April, the proof-of-concept exploits supplied by the company to Oracle combined them with other bugs, not together, Gowdiak said.

"The way in which SunToolkit class and its getField method is used to achieve a complete JVM [Java Virtual Machine] sandbox bypass is different from what we have demonstrated to Oracle," Gowdiak said.

Because of this, the researcher believes that the new exploit is likely the result of someone else independently discovering the same vulnerabilities, rather than a leak of information somewhere in the vulnerability report handling process.

However, nothing can be excluded with 100 percent certainty, Gowdiak said. "We don't know with whom and in what form or detail Oracle is sharing vulnerability information."

According to a status report received on Aug. 23 from Oracle, the company was planning to fix the two vulnerabilities in its October Critical Patch Update (CPU), together with 17 other Java 7 flaws reported by Security Explorations, Gowdiak said.

Oracle releases security patches every four months. The last Java CPU was released in June and only addressed 3 of the security issues reported by Polish security firm.

"Although we stay in touch with Oracle and the communication process has been quite flawless so far, we don't know why Oracle left so many serious bugs for the Oct. CPU," Gowdiak said.

Security Explorations is not aware of any changes in Oracle's patching plans at this time, Gowdiak said. "But, we hope they will stand up to the task and release a Java CPU fixing the security issues as soon as possible."

Oracle did not immediately return a request for comment regarding the vulnerability reports received from Security Explorations. The company has not publicly commented about the two actively exploited vulnerabilities either.

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