Attacks on Java reached "unprecedented" levels during the third quarter of the year, a Microsoft researcher reported.
For the most part, attackers have been targeting three vulnerabilities that have all been patched, noted Holly Stewart, senior program manager at Microsoft, in a blog post. Still, attacks on Java number better than 6 million and have surpassed the total number of Adobe-related attacks the company monitored.
"Java is ubiquitous, and, as was once true with browsers and document readers like Adobe Acrobat, people don't think to update it," blogged Stewart. "On top of that, Java is a technology that runs in the background to make more visible components work. How do you know if you have Java installed or if it's running?"
Out of the three, the two most exploited vulnerabilities were CVE-2008-5353, a deserialization issue that allows remote code execution through Java-enabled browsers on Windows, Mac OS X and other systems; and CVE-2009-3867, a remote code execution issue caused by improper parsing of long file://URL arguments, according to Microsoft. CVE-2008-5353 was attacked roughly 3.5 million times, while CVE-2009-3867 was hit some 2.6 million times. The third vulnerability is CVE-2010-0094, another deserialization issue, which was attacked more than 200,000 times.
Oracle did not respond to a request for comment on the issue. However, Trend Micro Advanced Threat Researcher Jamz Yaneza said the culprit is likely exploit kits used by attackers targeting low-hanging fruit.
"This is just more evidence that there is a core group of bad actors actively creating the base malware kits and incorporating them into standard modules in many types of malware," he said. "Think of it as a superpack add-on. In the case of older exploits-not just Java but other operating systems and applications of yesteryear-these come standard in a kit. If you want the latest upgrade, that requires a certain amount of money. The bad guys don't care of course; they'll buy it including the 24/7 support service and upgrades-they're using your stolen credit card anyway."
In its final update for the year, Oracle patched a number of Java issues.
Still, the number of Java exploits is low when compared with other malware families like Zbot (Zeus), the Microsoft researcher added.
"Considering that these vulnerabilities all have available updates from Oracle that would prevent these attacks from being successful, this data is a reminder that, in addition to running real-time protection, it is imperative to apply all security updates for software, no matter what your flavor might be," Stewart noted.