The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has urged computer users to disable Java plug-ins in their browsers due to a major vulnerability.
The department’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) has issued a notice asking “users and administrators to review CERT Vulnerability Note VU#625617 and US-CERT Alert TA13-010A. Due to the number and severity of this and prior Java vulnerabilities, it is recommended that Java be disabled in web browsers.”
The action comes almost two weeks after researchers first discovered malware that attacks Java HTTP servers, allowing attackers to gain control of the systems.
The price of disabling Java could be serious to some organizations, for it is the base for a number of collaboration applications including WebX. But U.S. CERT says all versions of Java 7 through update 10 are affected. “Web browsers using the Java 7 plug-in are at high risk.”
The U.S. CERT notice includes instructions on how to disable Java in Windows. If you have Java v.10, go to Windows Control Panel and find the Java applet. Go to the Security tab and unselect “Enable Java content in the browser.”
Larry Keating, president of Toronto-based No Panic Computing, a managed desktop computing provider, said it is unusual for a government agency to issue specific instructions for handling a vulnerability. Usually the advice is more general. But, he added, “clearly it’s a threat.”
What makes this vulnerability more serious that the hundreds of others discovered every year is the easy availability over the Internet of hacking kits to exploit this particular one, he said.
On the other hand, he said many people using the Internet probably won’t be troubled by the exploit. It is not, he emphasized, a problem with Java apps but with the Java browser plug-ins.