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Contributing writer

January marked by Java, Flash vulnerabilities

Feb 17, 20153 mins
Application SecurityCybercrimeVulnerabilities

Vulnerabilities in Flash and Java were the ones to watch out for this winter

Newly-disclosed vulnerabilities in Flash and Java were the ones to watch out for this winter, according to a new report by Copenhagen-based security firm Secunia.

“Adobe Flash came out really hard at the beginning of the year with two zero-days reported and patched,” said Kasper Lindgaard, Secunia’s director of research and security. “That’s a good or a bad start depending on the eye of the beholder.”

According to the Secunia report, which covered the months of November, December, and January, a zero-day vulnerability in a widely-used application is a particular challenge for enterprises, since it can be extremely difficult to remove it from everywhere its used in an organization.

In addition, one of the Flash vulnerabilities was used in a malvertising attack, which is something extremely difficult for users to guard against. Instead of downloading malicious attachments or clicking on malicious links, all users have to do is visit a reputable, trusted website — and the malware infection comes in through the advertisement.

Meanwhile, vulnerabilities in Java are also particularly problematic for enterprises, said Lindgaard.

“Java is just one of those applications or frameworks that is apparently very hard for end users to patch,” he said. “The patching itself is simple, it’s about people not taking the time to patch, or they don’t care.”

According to Secunia, the unpatched share of Java is usually between 40 and 50 percent. This, combined with a market share of around 65 percent, makes Java one of the worst applications when it comes to vulnerability, especially on private devices.

However, the vendor with the most vulnerable products was neither Oracle nor Adobe, but IBM.

That’s because IBM tends to bundle up all the libraries that they use as part of their own products, said Lindgaard.

“So when, say, a new version of Java is released, IBM needs to release a new version of their products to fix Java in those products,” he said.

Google also made the Secunia report this quarter, for its Google Chrome vulnerabilities, and the changes to its Project Zero disclosure policy.

“Google has a big effort to find and get rid of vulnerabilities in their products, and Chrome is a flagship product, so they’re focused on that,” said Lindgaard.

Google discovers about 80 percent of the vulnerabilities on its own, but also has a bug bounty program to reward outside researchers for finding problems as well. So the 132 Google Chrome vulnerabilities reported in the last three months aren’t bad news, ehs aid.

“It’s a good thing in that it highlights that they’re taking security in a responsible way,” he said.

Also good news — Google no longer has a hard disclosure date of 90 days for the vulnerabilities it finds as part of Project Zero.

“They introduced a grace period of two weeks,” he said. “If a patch has a planned release date in the next two weeks, they will not disclose, they will wait. The listened to the security industry, and they fixed the issue.”

Google received criticism earlier this year for disclosing a Microsoft vulnerability, and sample exploit code, exactly ninety days after they had notified Microsoft about the problem — even though Microsoft was just about to release a patch.