Oracle Corp.

Experts worry over Oracle’s security track record

Security experts are expressing doubt over Oracle Corp.’s ability to keep users of its software safe from attacks as the company struggles to produce one patch after the other for its highly popular but very vulnerable Java software.

The company appears to be willing to fix the flaws in Java but the question seems be whether Oracle is capable of doing so, according to Paul Ducklin, head of technology for Asia Pacific at security firm Sophos Ltd.

Early last month, the United States Department of Homeland Security urged computer administrators and users to disable Java plug-ins in the browsers due to a major vulnerability in the software. Shortly after, Oracle issued an emergency security update to Java 7 but the move failed to patch two new vulnerabilities which would allow attackers to execute arbitrary code on computers using the software.

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However, for the past three years the software has been poorly maintained and has had at least 90 security vulnerabilities of medium to high severity, according to a federal database that tracks IT security issues.

Failing to correct Java flaws can pose serious consequences for many users even if the software is only occasionally needed for browsing Web sites, according to a report from SiliconValley.com.

For example, many business businesses depend on Java for processing their payroll. Flaws in the software could attackers the opening they need to commit crimes such as data theft or online extortion.
Sun Microsystems developed Java in the 1990s and was acquired by Oracle when it bought Sun in 2009. The software was designed to make it easy for other programs to run computers and Web sites. The software is used in computer games, applications for calculating mortgages and stock trades as well as viewing 3D images among other things.
 
Java runs on several billion devices worldwide, including computers, mobile phones, televisions, medical devices, parking lot stations, and mobile vehicle navigation systems.
 
Many flaws of Java may stem from some security experts spending more time inspecting the software, according to Will Dorman, a Carnegie Mello researcher who wrote the warning for the U.S. government. He said Java is not the only software he had recommended for disabling. For example, Dorman gave a similar advice in December for Macromedia Shockwave Player.

The federal database listing software vulnerabilities also cited flaws in software from Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Google, Adobe Systems and Mozilla.

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